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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8874
JPY
USD
120.83
GBP
USD
0.6497
CAD
USD
1.3271
INR
USD
66.162

Rates may not be current.