U.S. Senate overhauls Farm Bill, but time running out

washington / reuters / The U.S. Senate has approved sweeping new farm legislation that would cut almost all traditional farm subsidies while expanding a costly crop insurance program.

But chances are slim the bill will pass this year.

The $498-billion, five-year Farm Bill, passed by a 2-to-1 margin, would compensate growers when revenue from a crop falls, rather than prop up prices. That move, along with cuts to conservation funding and food stamps for the poor, would save about $23 billion.

But the House, dominated by Tea Party members, wants deeper cuts and there are concerns about the cost of crop insurance — government will pay 60 cents of each $1 in premiums — and demands for limits on payments for large operations.

Time is also a factor. The House agriculture committee won’t begin work on its bill until mid-July, just before a five-week recess. Analysts say it will be difficult for the House to act or for Congress to enact a Farm Bill before the 2008 law expires on Sept. 30.

Ethiopia exchange eyes food aid in expanded trade

addis ababa / reuters / Ethiopia’s commodity exchange wants to increase trade in maize and wheat by including some of its imported food aid.

“We are currently in discussions with the government about how to take on in a much bigger way maize and wheat trading in the country, including monetization of imported food aid into the country through the exchange,” said Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive of the ECX commodity exchange.

Allowing the sale of surplus food aid would raise funds for initiatives such as drilling boreholes for water or improving the country’s electricity supply.

Africa’s biggest coffee producer has big plans to boost agricultural output by 2015.

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