US senate aproves new farm bill

A new version of the US Farm Bill, just approved by the Senate’s agriculture committee, has been attacked by acting US agriculture secretary Chuck Conner.

The long-awaited Sentate version, which follows one from the House of Representatives in August, seeks to extend existing farm supports for the next five years.

“It maintains a strong safety net for farmers and strengthens programmes that will help agricultural producers of all kinds,” said Senate agriculture committee chairman Tom Harkin. The draft Bill investments in energy, conservation and rural development, and retains existing commodity supports.

It also gives producers the option to participate in an income support programme based on crop revenues rather than crop prices. It also introduces a permanent $5bn (£2.5bn) disaster fund.

But Mr Conner, who recently replaced the previous agriculture secretary Mike Johanns, said the draft Bill offered “no reform at all”. The lack of a meaningful cap on payments would allow millionaires to continue to participate in farm programmes. And raising support prices for various crops would leave the US open to attack in the WTO.

  • Once the House and Senate have approved their versions of the Farm Bill, a combined text is then thrashed out and sent to the White House for approval.

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