By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate got a lot of work done on the farm bill last year but it “couldn’t get the house to move,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) county presidents on their recent trip to Washington, D.C.
“There are a number of people in the House or Senate who don’t know agriculture, don’t understand the breadth of the farm bill,” said Brown, the first Ohio senator in 40 years to be on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“It is a food bill, it’s a development bill, it is an energy bill, it’s a conservation bill.
“We’ve done some innovative things to deal with the algae blooms in Lake Erie and southern Ohio,” he said. “We’ve worked with Grand Lake Saint Marys on some things with (Republican House Speaker, also of Ohio) John Boehner in dealing with some conservation issues. We were able to do a number of those things through the farm bill.”
The Senate passed the farm bill in early summer 2012 but, because of competing interests and partly because of parochial Southern interests, the House did not pass a bill, Brown said; that was bad for the rural economy.
The good news is Brown is hopeful Congress will start work on the farm bill in April. What the Senate passed last year does not go in to the new Congress, so “we need to start from scratch,” he said. “I think it will be a lot the same as last year, but we are always looking for other kinds of ideas,” he said.
Concerning sequestration, Brown said since the Tea Party took over the House of Representatives, the government has lurched from crisis to crisis. “The whole idea of sequestration was a stupid idea in both parties,” he opined. “It was a stupid idea no matter who started it. When that came about, it came in response to, ‘Do we pay our bills?’”
The compromise for Republicans to agree to raise the debt ceiling was sequestration, Brown explained. Everyone thought they would get the problem resolved before it came to pass.
“Well, when the time came, the ‘Super Committee’ couldn’t come to an agreement, in large part because Republicans walked away from it saying, ‘We’re not going to vote for any kind of taxes or closing tax loopholes,’ Democrats walked away saying, ‘We’re not going to make any cuts in Medicare or Social Security,’” Brown said. “That’s fundamentally where the major disagreement is. Both sides have legitimate arguments, but we have to do better than that.”