SENATE PASSES HOUSE VERSION OF SUPPLEMENT AG ASSISTANCE
The Senate passed the House version of the supplemental agriculture assistance in the face of united Republican opposition and the threat of a veto from President Bush. The White House indicated that it would sign the $5.5 billion measure.
This is the fourth straight year that Congress has provided a multibillion-dollar bailout of the farm economy to compensate for low crop prices. Democrats indicated they might try to win passage later of the additional $2 billion they wanted.
Without the $5.5 billion in government payments, the Agriculture Department estimates, net farm income this year will fall to $42.4 billion, $2.8 billion below last year.
The Senate bill contained $5.5 billion for direct payments to grain and cotton farmers, almost $900 million more than the House measure, plus $542 million for conservation programs and $150 million for apple growers. The measure contains approximately 85 percent of last years' assistance for AMTA payments and payments to peanut producers. It also contains $85 million for cottonseed assistance, and increases payment limits to $150,000 per person for the 2001 crop.
The House is expected to take up what is known as trade promotion authority after they return from the August recess, as well as taking up the House Agriculture Committee's $73 billion farm bill. The Senate is expected to continue to hold hearings on the farm bill but is not expected to act until later this year or early next year.