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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9220
JPY
USD
119.88
GBP
USD
0.6757
CAD
USD
1.2640
INR
USD
62.626

Rates may not be current.