Congress needs do-over on farm bill

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“Members are going to have to think about how they will explain these votes back in their districts at a time when prices are on the rise,” she said. “People are not going to want to see their taxes increase.”

Bush said the legislation needlessly would expand government. He cited one new program in the bill that would pay more to corn growers and others if agriculture revenue were to drop significantly in the next five years. This program, he said, could add billions of dollars to the cost of the bill.

He added that minor cutbacks to subsidies for wealthy farmers were not sufficient.

“At a time when net farm income is projected to increase by more than $28 billion in 1 year, the American taxpayer should not be forced to subsidize that group of farmers who have adjusted gross incomes of up to $1.5 million,” the president said in his veto message.

Today’s snag stemmed from an error made while printing the legislation on parchment before sending it to Bush.

Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said the section in question — which deals with trade and international food aid programs — was never printed. Indeed, the final, 628-page version of the bill jumps straight from “Title II” on conservation programs to “Title IV” on nutrition programs.

Democrats originally proposed bringing up and passing the missing section separately and sending that to Bush, thus allowing the entire measure to become law. But Republicans argued that might not be constitutional because Bush actually vetoed a version that Congress never considered.

The underlying bill would make small cuts to direct payments, which are distributed to some farmers no matter how much they grow. It also would eliminate some payments to individuals with more than $750,000 in annual farm income - or married farmers who make more than $1.5 million.

Individuals who make more than $500,000 or couples who make more than $1 million jointly in nonfarm income also would not be eligible for subsidies.

Under current law, there is no income limit for farmers, and married couples who make less than one-fourth of their income from farming will not receive subsidies if their joint income exceeds $5 million.

The farm bill also would:

Boost nutrition programs, including food stamps and emergency domestic food aid, by more than $10 billion over 10 years. It would expand a program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to schoolchildren.

Cut a per-gallon ethanol tax credit for refiners from 51 cents to 45 cents. The credit supports the blending of fuel with the corn-based additive. More money would go to cellulosic ethanol, made from plant matter.

Require that meats and other fresh foods carry labels with their country of origin.

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

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