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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.