The State Journal-Register

October 4, 2001

Bush won't support farm bill 
   House Republicans ignores request to halt debate 


WASHINGTON - In an 11th-hour blow to farm-state lawmakers, the Bush administration on Wednesday came out against a $170 billion, 10-year farm bill that it said is too costly given the nation's economic problems.

The administration action stunned and angered supporters of the farm bill just as they were taking to the House floor to begin debate on the measure. In
defiance, the Republican leadership ignored the White House request to halt the debate.

House Agriculture Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, vowed to move forward. "We have worked during more than a year and a half with producers to fulfill my commitment to bring them a new farm policy,"
Combest said.

But the White House cited both the current national crisis and its specific objections to the bill, contending it would encourage overproduction when prices are low and would fail to help the farmers most in need.

"In the context of the current state of the nation, consideration of large new financial commitments that do not require immediate action are not timely,"
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) statement read. "In the near term, the administration is focusing on recovery and national security."

In addition, the House bill fails to take advantage of the opportunity to revamp the nation's farm programs to better address changes in the agriculture industry, the statement said.

House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, was angry at the administration's last-minute entry into the discussions.

"This isn't news that the economy is in trouble in farm country," Nussle said. "It's been that way for over four years."

The administration's position appeared to have little immediate effect on voting. The House rejected 238-187 an amendment that would have imposed strict $150,000-per-person limits on crop subsidies, saving $1.3 billion over 10 years. Just seven of Illinois' 20 House members, all from the Chicago area, supported the amendment.. House Speaker Dennis Hastert,
R-Yorkville, didn't vote.

Several central Illinois lawmakers are unwavering in their support of the overall bill. They include Reps. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, and David Phelps, D-Eldorado.

Illinois is among the states that historically have benefited from the federal farm program, which favors farmers who grow certain crops, such as corn,
wheat, rice and cotton. Over the past five years, Illinois farmers together have received more federal farm subsidy money than any other state except
Iowa and Texas.

The bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee in July would increase farm spending overall by $73 billion over 10 years. The additional funding was to come from surplus funds projected when last spring's budget agreement was reached. But the projected surplus was rapidly dwindling even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.