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Debating Direct Payments to Farmers

From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report. The United States Senate recently voted to cut a program that makes $5 billion a year in direct payments to farmers. But the Senate agreed to add new subsidies that critics say could hurt farmers in other countries. The vote was part of a $955 billion farm bill approved by a wide majority in the Senate.

Ten days later, however, the House of Representatives defeated its own version of the farm bill. The Senate bill would cut about $24 billion from the federal budget over 10 years. Some of those cuts come from direct payments. Farmers receive direct payments whether they had good years or bad. But high crop prices and historically high farm profits have made the payments politically unpopular at a time of reduced federal spending.

The Senate bill would help farmers manage the risk of bad weather and bad markets. It would do this by offering crop insurance to farmers raising crops that have not previously been insured. And it would make payments to farmers if prices drop too much. Supporters say the goal is to help the American farmers who supply the nation with food. But critics say the bill goes too far. Some say the proposed new guarantees to pay farmers if prices drop could cause trouble for the United States at the World Trade Organization.

Other countries could claim that the policy suppresses prices in world markets. The bill would also let the government buy $60 million in emergency food aid closer to where a crisis is happening. Supporters say doing that is faster and cheaper than shipping food from the United States, and could save more lives.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Mario Ritter.