News / Economy

Farm Bill Heads to Obama's Desk

FILE - Larry Hasheider walking along one of his corn fields on his farm in Okawville, Illinois, Oct. 16, 2013.
FILE - Larry Hasheider walking along one of his corn fields on his farm in Okawville, Illinois, Oct. 16, 2013.
Legislation ending automatic payments to U.S. farmers and making international food aid more efficient is on its way to President Barack Obama's desk.

However, the legislation, passed by the Senate on Tuesday, has drawn criticism for its generous new subsidies and potential to violate international trade laws.

The farm bill governing agricultural policy, domestic and international food aid, and more, is estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. The House passed the measure last week.

According to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates, the bill reduces spending by $16.6 billion.

End of direct payments

The largest part of the cuts is from ending a $5 billion-per-year "direct payment" subsidy that farmers received in good times and bad.

U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) smiles with ranking member Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MI) (C) at a news conference after the final passage of the Farm Bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 4, 2014.U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) smiles with ranking member Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MI) (C) at a news conference after the final passage of the Farm Bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 4, 2014.
x
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) smiles with ranking member Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MI) (C) at a news conference after the final passage of the Farm Bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 4, 2014.
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) smiles with ranking member Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MI) (C) at a news conference after the final passage of the Farm Bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 4, 2014.
"We all agreed that direct payment subsidies could no longer be justified and needed to be eliminated," said Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"We also knew that it was important to have a safety net for our farmers," she added.

Congress expanded subsidies for crop insurance and other programs that shield farmers from crop losses or market declines.

Supporters note that farmers have to spend their own money to buy crop insurance.

"You get a bill, not a check," Stabenow said.  "And you don’t get any kind of help unless you have a loss."

The federal government pays more than half of the bill, which critics say is excessive.

Trade issues

Alternatively, farmers can choose a "counter-cyclical" program that pays a benefit when crop prices fall below a set point, but proposed limits on the amount of subsidy farmers could receive were removed.

"The result of that is going to be a counter-cyclical program that will be much more market-distorting than the current ones for a few crops," said Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley.

The World Trade Organization has ruled against the United States on an earlier version of the counter-cyclical subsidies, because they kept world market prices artificially low.  The new subsidies may reopen that trade dispute.

Food aid

Advocates for international food aid reform cheered a small change in the Farm Bill that they say will make help available to hundreds of thousands more people.

While most U.S. food aid comes from American farmers and is transported on U.S.-flagged vessels, Congress will allow more funding to be spent on purchasing food closer to where it is needed.

Aid groups also can offer cash vouchers for beneficiaries to purchase food themselves.

Proponents say these tools are much more efficient, allowing U.S. aid to reach more people with the same resources.

Programs for the needy in the United States were a major stumbling block for negotiators.

The bill ultimately cut $8.5 billion from domestic food assistance programs by tightening eligibility requirements.

President Obama has said he will sign the bill.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.