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From October 5, 2001

House Rejects Shift from Farm Subsidies to Conservation Programs

Yesterday, the House rejected an environmental amendment that proposed to shift funding from traditional farm subsidy programs into conservation over the next 10 years. The amendment would have allocated $19 billion to farmers and communities that reduce pollution or protect acreage.

This rejection cleared the way for a vote on the overall $170 billion farm bill that is not supported by the Bush Administration. The White House budget office said Wednesday that the bill was too costly and limits their flexibility to address the rapidly changing sector. According to the Washington Post, it "demonstrated the power of the House Agriculture Committee and traditional farm interests…."

Farmers and representatives from big grain and cotton states, the principal beneficiaries of increased subsidy payments under the terms of the bill, received just enough support to defeat the amendment, 226 to 200. The bill was proposed by reformers wanting a fundamental change in decades of farm policy. If the amendment passed, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas) warned that he would pull the entire farm bill from the floor. "It was basic hardball," said Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-New York), the amendment's main GOP sponsor.

Small farmers and producers of fruit, vegetables, and livestock are ineligible for subsidies under the current program, but they would have received the proposed conservation payments to reduce pollution and set aside acreage for wildlife, hunting, conservation, and wetlands.

See the full article at www.washingtonpost.com