farm subsidies

Historical perspective on farm bill
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

The uneasy marriage of farm bill and food stamps

For decades, government agriculture policy has tied farm programs to federal food aid. Grocery displays like this one were common in the wake of the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in the 1930s.
National Archives

Both farmers and food stamps advocates sighed in relief Friday when President Obama signed the  long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday during a visit to Michigan State University.  The farm bill process was fraught with ups and downs and the loose coalition tying nutrition and farm programs seemed barely able to survive.

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Farm bill analysis
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

New farm bill changes U.S. ag policy

President Obama signed the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday, February 7, 2014.

Not everyone likes the farm bill signed into law on Friday, but at least farmers will be able to start making informed decisions.

The biggest change in the 2014 farm bill is that the subsidies known as direct payments are gone. Instead of the government paying a known amount to farmers each year—at a fixed budget of $5 billion—the new system of subsidies will fluctuate, partly with market forces. That makes it really hard to predict how much the program will cost each year, says Iowa State University ag economist Chad Hart.

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Harvest Public Media story
5:29 pm
Sun September 29, 2013

Largely unpopular, direct payment subsidies persist

A scene in the county agent's office in San Augustine, TX of a farmer receiving his AAA check in 1939. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 was the start of a long series of “farm bills” to provide federal support to agriculture. The current system of direct and countercyclical payments dates to the 1996 Farm Bill.
Credit Russell Lee/ Farm Security Administration /LOC

Hear the audio version of Frank's story

Congress is bitterly divided on food stamps and other issues contained in the farm bill, but both political parties agree on something: the $5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called Direct and Countercyclical Payments has got to go.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Farmville helps explain farm bill

Farmville players build and care for their own Facebook farm. Like real-life farmers, players plan their moves based on policy.
Credit courtesy of Zynga

The farm bill is, once again, entering a critical stretch. As was the case last year, the current law expires at the end of September. There’s no election to dissuade elected officials from tackling the major piece of agriculture and nutrition policy—but Congress does have a pretty full plate, with the crisis in Syria, immigration reform and a measure to continue funding federal government programs all set to come to a head.

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Harvest Public Media story
6:12 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

A food fight over U.S. sugar program

Billboard promoting the beet sugar industry outside of the Great Western Sugar factory in Ovid, CO (1967)
Credit Colorado State University Libraries Archives and Special Collections

Sugar beet growing and refining was once a major industry in western Kansas and remains so in northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.  But it’s an industry that’s been supported by government subsidies of one sort or another dating back to 1789.  This pits sugar users against sugar producers over whether preserving a U.S. industry and domestic jobs is worth paying twice the international market price for sugar.  Harvest Public Media has an update on the ongoing debate. 

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Harvest Public Media story
12:45 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

SNAP cut, direct payments out, insurance in and provisioned

Wheat field west of Amarillo shredded by a late-May hailstorm.
Credit Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter

The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.

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9:46 am
Sat June 8, 2013

Water conservation incentives leading to more water use?

Lead in text: 
The 1996 farm bill authorized an incentive program to help farmers buy more efficient irrigation equipment to save water. An estimated $4.2 billion in conservation subsidy payments have been made since 1997 and the program is under scrutiny in the current debate over a new five-year farm bill. And questions are being raised over whether the water conservation promoted by the program has actually led to more overall water use.
WASHINGTON - Millions of dollars in farm subsidies for irrigation equipment aimed at water conservation have led to more water use, not less, threatening vulnerable aquifers and streams. From Wyoming to the Texas Panhandle, water tables have fallen 150 feet in some areas - ranging from 15 percent to 75 percent - since the 1950s, scientists say, because the subsidies give farmers the incentive to irrigate more acres of land.