Research has been a cornerstone of advances in agriculture that has helped make American farmers more productive and more profitable than ever before, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday.With both houses of Congress set this year to consider a new farm bill to fund agricultural programs nationwide, a U.S. House of Representatives proposal to slash more than $99 million from research initiatives isn't sitting well with the secretary.“In the scheme of things, that may not seem like a tremendous amount of difference, but every dollar we invest in research generates $20 return on investment, which means that really what we're talking about is $2 billion of economic activity that will not be funded if the House number becomes the number,” Vilsack said during a telephone interview with The Lima News. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, who represents Ohio's 4th Congressional District which serves Allen County, is among those who won't be supporting the bill.“The average taxpayer doesn't realize that only about 30 percent of the farm bill is actually dedicated to farming. The 70 percent that goes to other programs, the vast majority of that is food stamps,” Jordan told Ohio Community Media on Thursday.The Republican Congressman called the bill “a very bad piece of legislation.” He said it seeks to provide more funding to the food stamp program by increasing taxes on companies with foreign parents, such as Honda.“It's a terrible idea. We should be lowering taxes. Those are American jobs potentially at stake, when you mess with those trade treaties,” said Jordan.The Senate is currently looking at its version of the bill.Vilsack said it's critically important for farmers and agricultural producers to contact their Congressmen and Senators to urge attention be paid to research.“It's very, very important to focus on the other titles of the Food, Farm and Jobs bill,” Vilsack said. “Most of the discussion is almost always on Title I, which is the commodity title, and Title II, the conservation title. After that people lose interest and they shouldn't.”Vilsack said because of technological advances, the agricultural industry has seen record farm income, record exports and a decline in unemployment in rural areas. Producers are able to meet domestic needs, export more abroad and have been developing new market opportunities with renewable energy. That's all in jeopardy if research dollars are sacrificed, the secretary said.One area that seems to have a rare consensus is on a proposal to end direct payments to farmers and replace them with subsidized insurance programs that account for acts of nature and price decreases.“There is a consensus among the House and Senate that direct payments are gone. It's hard to justify that system when commodity prices are where they are today, where they've been the last couple years and where they're likely to be over time,” Vilsack said. “You have to create a system that doesn't pay people in good times but provides protection for folks when they are facing difficulties.“There is no disagreement that's what's going to happen. There's a slight disagreement on how to structure those programs. Those things will be worked out because they have to be worked out.”U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown introduced legislation Friday that would favor a revenue-based approach to commodity payments, rather than price based. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.“Given the drought conditions that many Ohio farmers are facing this summer, we need reforms to our commodity programs,” said Brown, who is the first Ohioan to serve on the Agriculture Committee in 40 years. He credits Henry County farmer Mark Schwiebert with introduced him to the idea.The Durbin-Brown bill would replace current price-support programs with a two-tier revenue protection program. Under the bill, farmers rely on private revenue insurance at the individual level, while the government handles widespread losses at the state level where the private insurance market is ineffective.The federal government would provide payment when a farmer's actual revenue falls below 90 percent of the forecasted revenue for a specific crop under the new bill. Private insurance would be integrated with the state program, operating much like it does currently. However, private insurance would only cover a farmer's individual revenue losses beyond what the government covers, so farmers would see a significant decrease in their crop insurance premiums.Jordan said he believes the change could be positive.“I'm supportive of a program that would move to a more market-based approach, which is actually a concept pushed by professors at the Ohio State University,” Jordan said. “Let the farmers make the decisions.”Breanne Parcels of the Urbana Daily Citizen, a member of Ohio Community Media, contributed to this report.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.