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Archive for Saturday, July 28, 2007

U.S. House approves farm bill

Lawmakers defy president’s veto threat

July 28, 2007

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— The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation Friday that combines billions in aid for farmers with money for low-income nutrition programs, defying a veto threat from President Bush over the bill's largesse to crop producers.

Kansas lawmakers split along party lines in their votes on the multibillion-dollar, five-year farm bill, which passed on a vote of 231-191.

Democrats Nancy Boyda, of Topeka, and Dennis Moore, of Lenexa, both voted for the bill. Republicans Jerry Moran, who represents western Kansas, and Todd Tiahrt, of the Wichita area, voted against it.

The bill devotes more money to conservation, renewable energy, nutrition and specialty crop programs than in the past but leaves in place - and in some cases increases - subsidies to producers of major crops such as corn and soybeans at a time of record-high prices.

It reflected a delicate straddle for Democrats writing their first farm bill in a decade, who struggled to balance the needs of first-term, farm-state lawmakers against the demands of liberals seeking more money for environmental and nutrition programs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the measure "signals change and shows a new direction in our farm policy," but it fell well short of the changes many in her party had demanded.

"More needs to be done, but we have gone in the right direction for change and for reform," Pelosi said.

Republican opposition leaves Democrats well short of the margin they would need to override a veto.

The legislation aims to ban subsidies to farmers whose income averages more than $1 million a year, down from the current limit of $2.5 million. It also would stop farmers from collecting payments for multiple farm businesses. Still, it includes about $42 billion in assistance to farmers.

The overall measure was a huge victory for farmers, who got much of what they asked for in a year when they sometimes feared their priorities would be trumped by Democrats' talk of overhauling the way agricultural money is allocated.

It includes a long-sought deal to require country-of-origin labeling for meats and other foods, breathing new life into a five-year-old law that has been delayed repeatedly by opposition from food retailers and meatpackers. The current farm law expires Sept. 30. The Senate is due to begin its consideration of the legislation in September.

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