News / Economy

    US Senate Ends One Farm Subsidy, Adds Another

    Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, speaks to reporters, June 10, 2013.
    Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, speaks to reporters, June 10, 2013.
    The U.S. Senate has cut a $5 billion-per-year farm subsidy program as part of a bill shaping U.S. farm policy and much more. But lawmakers have added new subsidies that critics say could end up hurting other countries’ farmers more than the old program did.

    The $955 billion Farm Bill passed the Senate with a wide, bipartisan majority. It cuts about $24 billion from the budget over 10 years, in part by doing away with $5 billion a year in what are called “direct payments.” Farmers got those payments in good years and bad.

    High crop prices, historic farm profits and tight federal budgets made that subsidy politically unpopular.

    Getting rid of it was one big change in the new bill, says Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.

    “It’s a reform bill, it ends subsidies and moves us in the direction of risk management and we are very proud of the work that we have done," said Stabenow.

    The Senate bill helps farmers manage the risks of bad weather as well as bad markets. It offers crop insurance to farmers raising crops that have not previously been eligible. And it provides farmers with payments if prices drop below a certain point.

    Stabenow says it’s intended to help the farmers who provide the U.S. with a safe, affordable food supply.

    But critics say the bill goes too far. Montana State University economist Vince Smith says the new guarantee against market drops could get the U.S. in trouble with the World Trade Organization.

    “When prices fall from the current levels, subsidies to a whole plethora of crops go up. Well, that’s exactly when countries like Brazil will bring trade dispute cases claiming price suppression in world markets," said Smith.

    Brazil already has won a WTO case against the United States over cotton subsidies. Smith says the new Farm Bill could revive that dispute.

    The bill also permits $60 million to be spent buying emergency food aid closer to where a crisis is happening, rather than shipping food from the U.S. Supporters say it’s faster and cheaper and could save more lives.

    Eric Munoz with the anti-poverty group Oxfam says it’s a step forward. But he points out that it’s just $60 million out of a food aid budget of more than $1 billion.

    “It is a very small portion of a relatively large program. So I think we’re just at the beginning, really, of creating the kind of flexibility for food aid that we’d like to see on a much larger scale," said Munoz.

    But farm groups, food processors and shippers object to changes that they say will cost American jobs.

    The changes are not included in the version of the Farm Bill the House of Representatives is expected to begin debating in the next few weeks. And the House and Senate are even further apart on domestic food aid programs.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8954
    JPY
    USD
    109.65
    GBP
    USD
    0.6827
    CAD
    USD
    1.3037
    INR
    USD
    67.037

    Rates may not be current.