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.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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
0.8836
JPY
USD
118.88
GBP
USD
0.6451
CAD
USD
1.2469
INR
USD
61.751

Rates may not be current.