WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday defeated an unorthodox proposal to forgive part of wheat farmers' crop loans and to target subsidies to small- and medium-size producers as it continued work on a new long-term agriculture policy.
As it worked its way through a flood of proposed amendments, the House voted 228 to 200 against a hotly debated amendment that would have allowed forgiveness of part of farmers' federal crop loans if they are unable to sell their grain at a high enough price to pay off the entire loan.
The vote, which badly split both parties, rejected both the so-called marketing loan idea and an attached proposal to target federal income support benefits to small- and medium-size farmers by paying a higher rate of support on the first 15,000 bushels of wheat production.
Backed by Administration
The targeting concept has been favored by the Reagan Administration as a way to cut costs while funneling scarce federal dollars to the farmers who most need the help.
Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) argued that the proposal would have removed artificial props that have priced U.S. farm goods too high to be competitive in world trade and would have been an innovative departure from failed past policies.
But the House leadership, trying to hold the line against amendments to what it called a delicately worked-out farm bill, managed to head off the proposal. House Majority Whip Tom Foley (D-Wash.) warned that the targeting incentives would encourage farmers who grow other crops to switch to wheat, adding to the surplus problem.
The chamber also overwhelmingly rejected, 334 to 93, a proposal to begin phasing farm income support subsidies downward beginning in 1987, instead of freezing them at current levels over the next five years as the bill proposes.
Other emotional matters remained to be resolved, including whether grain farmers should be able to decide the shape of their own price-support programs by voting in a national referendum.
Option for Farmers
At issue was a feature giving farmers the option of accepting whatever grain price-support features Congress ultimately approves or voting to go instead to a system of sharply higher price supports coupled with strict controls on how they market their wheat and corn.