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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9238
JPY
USD
119.51
GBP
USD
0.6614
CAD
USD
1.2119
INR
USD
63.562

Rates may not be current.