News / USA

Republican Congress Could Scrutinize Farm Subsidies

Billions spent supporting American farmers present a ripe target for some lawmakers

US farmers receive $5 billion a year in direct payments from the US government, whether the farms are hurting or prospering.
US farmers receive $5 billion a year in direct payments from the US government, whether the farms are hurting or prospering.

Multimedia

Audio

After this month's U.S. elections, Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives with the promise to cut federal spending. The billions spent supporting American farmers are a ripe target for some.

Critics say the subsidies not only cost taxpayers money, they also hurt farmers in other countries by pushing down commodity prices.

But how or whether Congress will cut farm subsidies is very much in question.

Developing-world farmers have long complained that American farmers have an unfair advantage in world trade because of generous subsidies from the U.S. government.

So they may have welcomed the election-night victory speech from John Boehner, the presumed Speaker of the House in the incoming Congress. He said that Republicans would "...take a new approach that hasn't been tried in Washington before by either party. It starts with cutting spending rather than increasing it."

Policy analyst David de Gennaro with the Environmental Working Group says, "The easiest place for them to start looking is farm subsides."

The most objectionable of the farm subsidies, he says, is the roughly $5 billion a year that U.S. farmers receive in so-called direct payments. They get that money whether they are hurting or prospering.

Although he agrees farmers need a safety net, "what we have now looks nothing like a safety net," he says. "It's pretty much a guaranteed income."

And with crop prices running high this year, many would argue that farmers don't really need the guaranteed income.

Meanwhile, the United States is $13 trillion in debt. That's why even the nation's largest farm groups expect those direct payments to come under greater scrutiny.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says, "It is very hard to justify making these payments during good years. That's why we would argue that you should have programs to help when times are tough for those farmers and spend these scarce resources just where they are really needed."

Johnson says it makes more sense to help farmers in bad years -- for example, when prices are low.

But depending on what form that help takes, the World Trade Organization may disagree.

"Reducing the direct payments and redirecting the money to other kinds of farm support could actually be detrimental to the world trading system and detrimental to the interests of farmers in other countries," says David Orden with the International Food Policy Research Institute, "because they are more trade-distorting."

Orden says the WTO doesn't object to direct payments as much because that program doesn't single out any particular crop.

By contrast, the U.S. government pays cotton farmers, for example, when world cotton prices drop below a certain level. That means American farmers are more likely to keep growing cotton - keeping supplies high and world prices low. That's not fair to farmers in other countries, says the WTO. The U.S. recently lost a trade dispute on this matter, and is paying damages to Brazil.

So, by that measure, Orden says, paying farmers all the time isn't as bad for world trade.

He admits it doesn't look good politically to be paying farmers when prices are high. But he is skeptical that the policy will change.

"The history of us cutting support for farmers in the U.S. under Democratic or Republican Congresses is not very strong," he says. "And so I don't think we can take the new Congress as an indication that there will clearly be cuts in farm spending."

He notes that in 1994, the last time Republicans swept into Congress on a platform of cutting spending, farm subsidies actually went up.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs