News / USA

US House Passes Farm Subsidy Changes

File - Congress moved one step closer to ending a politically unpopular $5 billion subsidy that pays farmers regardless of need.
File - Congress moved one step closer to ending a politically unpopular $5 billion subsidy that pays farmers regardless of need.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a Farm Bill, bringing changes in farm subsidy programs and reforms to international food aid one step closer to passage.

The 10-year, $1 trillion bill includes $23 billion in cuts in conservation measures, nutrition programs and crop subsidies.

It ends a politically unpopular $5 billion subsidy that paid farmers regardless of need.  In its place, lawmakers added subsidized insurance programs that compensate farmers for crop losses or price declines.

Backers say it will provide support only when farmers need it.

But opponents see it as providing the bulk of the benefits to the wealthiest farmers, and they expect large payouts as prices for major crops decline from recent record highs.

“Almost surely, farmers are going to get a lot more money out of these programs than they got out of the direct payments program,” said Montana State University agricultural economist Vincent Smith.

Critics also say the subsidy changes may trigger an international trade dispute.  Smith said by cushioning U.S. farmers against price declines in global markets, these programs interfere with international trade more than the programs they replace.

“Expenditures are all going to be viewed as distortionary programs.  They are all going to be grist for the mill for trade disputes, and the U.S. is going to be in the wrong,” Smith said.

American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist Bob Young said he expects a case to go to the World Trade Organization, but says the programs are sound.

“Somebody is going to be very hard-pressed, I think, to challenge us on this front,” he said.

The U.S. has already lost a WTO case to Brazil on cotton subsidies. It is unclear if the new Farm Bill will resolve the dispute.

The Farm Bill also increases funding to purchase international food aid closer to where it is needed.

Advocates say local and regional purchase is faster, less costly and helps more of the needy than the current model of U.S. food aid, which involves shipping U.S.-produced crops on U.S. flagged ships.

Former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman says the $80 million measure is a small improvement in the $1.5 billion annual food aid budget.

“It doesn’t go all the way.  It will still largely be commodity-based.  But it still moves in that direction,” he said.

Funding for domestic food aid programs has been among the most contentious parts of the bill. Negotiators compromised on $8.6 billion in cuts, mostly to stiffer eligibility requirements.

Conservatives wanted more cuts and tighter enrollment for a safety net program that has continued to grow as the economy has improved.

But liberals fought against a bill that they see as cutting protection for the hungry while increasing it for farmers.

The Farm Bill went through three years of difficult negotiations through partisan divisions and fights within the Republican Party. It now goes to the Senate for a vote expected later this week.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs