Two international agencies estimated this week that rising global demand for food will push up prices 10-to-40 percent over the next decade and governments need to boost investment to increase farm production.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, growth in food production has slowed over the past decade even as rising incomes in developing countries boosted consumption.
Noting that higher prices will make their biggest impact in developing countries where some families spend up to 60 percent of their income, the agencies urged governments to avoid interfering with market forces.
But some would argue that’s exactly what’s going on these days in Congress, where lawmakers are trying to hammer out a compromise over federal spending for agricultural and nutritional programs.
Sen. John Thune, R – South Dakota: “We are looking at heading down a path madam president that takes us not to the future but to the past; to a time when farmers were farming for the government program rather than the market.”
Late this week, the U.S. Senate voted to end debate on amendments to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, more commonly known as the Farm Bill.
The Senate version of the bill is estimated to cost taxpayers nearly $955 billion over the next decade. Despite that hefty price tag, the measure would still cut federal spending by as much as $24 billion over that same time period. Much of the savings would be realized by cutting farm programs like direct payments which compensate growers regardless of prices or yields.
The Senate measure also would tie subsidies to environmental standards and reduce the government’s share of crop insurance premiums by 15 percent for farmers whose gross adjusted income exceeds $750,000 annually. Nearly $4 billion of the savings would come from cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. With annual costs of about $78 billion, SNAP spending has more than doubled since 2008.
More than 47 million people received assistance through the program last year. House Republicans contend SNAP needs an overhaul, but Senate Democrats have been reluctant to make changes.
The House version of the Farm Bill, which emerged from committee last month but has yet to make its way to the floor, takes a much larger slice out of the SNAP program, cutting five times as much as the Senate plan.
Sen. John Thune, R – South Dakota: “We can do so much better madam president and we should do so much better, for our producers across this country and for the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.”
Thursday’s Senate vote ending debate on amendments means lawmakers – at least on the Senate side – can proceed with debate on the comprehensive legislation and, presumably, a final vote next week.