News / USA

    Amid Drought, Midwest Farmers Embrace Changes to Farm Bill

    BLOOMINGTON, Illinois — Legislation commonly known as the U.S. Farm Bill expires at the end of September. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, its formal name, comes up for renewal every five years. It directs the U.S. government's food and agricultural policy. Changes to the bill this year come at a time when producers may need it most.

    Drought conditions aren’t new to Matt Hughes. The Illinois farmer said "surviving to the next year is very important.”

    Hughes has always had help from the government, in the form of direct payments through the Farm Bill.

    “When we have a bad weather event or a downturn in the market that we didn’t foresee, kind of that little safety net to get us through to next year to regroup and do a better job,” he said.

    But proposed changes to the bill, up for renewal in September, would end direct payments to farmers, something Hughes does not object to.

    “Most of us would like to see changes in the Farm Bill,” he said.

    What Hughes and most farmers would also like to see is government-subsidized crop insurance that offers protection in times of natural disasters.

    U.S. Representative Tim Johnson of Illinois is on the House Agriculture Committee and is working to bring Farm Bill legislation to a vote. He says "crop insurance is the name of the game.”

    “I think they want to make sure that we maintain the safety net, and I do too.  It’s critical that we do that," he added. "Times are good now, the drought notwithstanding, but costs continue to rise, input costs continue to rise, and I think that safety net is the biggest concern they have.”

    But critics of the proposed changes to the bill say the cost to taxpayers for crop insurance is too high.

    There are also concerns that crop insurance affects both real estate and commodity prices, said Terry Roggensack, a grain specialist at the Hightower Report.

    “There’s a lot of talk that they have caused land values to stay high because even in a year like this where a big producer, even if he has income-type crop insurance, they can withstand a year like this and it holds that crop value up because prices push up high enough," said Roggensack. "You’re going to still have those issues there.”

    The Senate passed Farm Bill legislation earlier this year. It ends direct payments and subsidizes crop insurance, saving taxpayers about $23 billion. But it doesn’t match legislation in the House of Representatives, and lawmakers need to reach a compromise before President Obama can sign the bill into law.

    “It’s got to come to a head sooner or later because we’ve got a deadline at the end of September, and we’ve either got to kick the can [postpone] another few months, which I oppose, or we’ve got to pass the Farm Bill,” said Johnson.

    A Farm Bill that is now as important as ever to producers, who face the worst drought conditions in a generation.

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora