House approves farm bill that Bush doesn’t like

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WASHINGTON – After three days of debate, members of the House approved the farm bill draft, the “Farm Security Act of 2001, by a final vote of 291-120.

The Bush administration had requested the House defer action of the overall $170 billion farm bill legislation that the White House does not support.

The House bill, said U.S. Ag Secretary Ann Veneman, “does not help farmers most in need, encourages overproduction while prices are low, jeopardizes U.S. markets abroad which would hurt our producers, and boosts federal spending by $70 billion over the next 10 years at a time of budget uncertainty.”

Critics say the White House waited too long in the legislative process to release its position, and lost its chance to help mold the bill.

In a close vote Thursday afternoon, the House voted 200 to 226, rejecting an amendment to shift dollars from traditional farm subsidy programs into conservation programs.

But House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, said rejection of the amendment underscores the broad base of support for the farm bill.

Combest said the failed amendment had attempted to move crop support funding away from producers and then delay potential additional conservation funding.

Dairy policy. The final House version did not include reauthorization of the New England Interstate Dairy Compact, but the legislation includes several dairy provisions, including:

* Reauthorization of the dairy price support at $9.90/hundredweight;

* Extension of dairy promotion assessments to imported dairy products, and elimination of the sunset date of the processor promotion program;

* An 80 percent increase in conservation funding over current programs and elimination of size restrictions on Environmental Quality Incentive Program participation;

* Requirement to USDA to evaluate various elements of national dairy policy.

On to Senate. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to start writing its version of the bill this month.

The current farm bill does not expire until September 2002.

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