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Farm bill still subsidy-rich

May 09, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Married couples with joint incomes of up to $1.5 million from their farm operation could still qualify for crop subsidies under a five-year, $300-billion farm bill compromise that would boost the Agriculture Department's food and farm programs.

Some farm couples with incomes totaling $2.5 million -- assuming $1 million is from other, nonfarm sources -- could also qualify. That's far too rich for the Bush administration, which renewed a threat to veto the package as being too generous to wealthy farmers.

As details of the House-Senate compromise emerged Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Edward T. Schafer reiterated the veto threat. White House Budget Director Jim Nussle said the legislation still spends too much, relies on budget gimmicks and "doesn't have hardly enough reform."

"For those reasons, it would still be something that the administration would oppose," Nussle said.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee and one of the bill's negotiators, said White House staffers had made it clear to him that Bush's support was unlikely.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a supporter of the bill, said she wished it had gone further in limiting payments to wealthy farmers. Pelosi said she would have "preferred more commodity reform," referring to scaling back subsidies, but praised increases for nutrition programs, which make up two-thirds of the cost.

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