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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Farm Bill

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This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

President Bush has signed a major farm bill. The new law increases government support programs for farmers. It is estimated to cost one-hundred-ninety-thousand-million dollars over the next ten years. That is eighty-three-thousand-million dollars more than the cost of continuing current programs.

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Graphic Image

The law ends efforts by Mister Bush's Republican Party to reduce federal aid to farmers. Many in the party had urged the president to veto the bill.

The measure replaces a farm program passed in Nineteen-Ninety-Six. That program ended most restrictions on the amount of a crop that can be grown. It also ended traditional price support payments for American farmers.

Mister Bush said the new law provides economic security for farmers. He said it will do this without lowering prices for crops or supporting crop production that is not needed.

The President noted that, in the past, Congress would pass a farm bill for a period of years, and then approve additional money each year. He said the additional payments made it difficult for Congress to operate within its budget. He said it also created problems for farmers.

The new law raises payment rates to growers of grain and cotton. It re-establishes a system that provides federal aid to farmers when crop prices drop too low. The law also re-establishes aid for producers of wool and honey.

There is an eighty percent increase in the amount of money spent on farm programs to protect the environment. The law also includes food aid for non-citizens who have lived in the United States legally for at least five years.

The farm bill has critics in the United States and in other countries. Conservatives say the government will spend too much money on agriculture when the budget is in deficit. Others say the measure is an effort to win political support for the President and members of Congress in important farm states.

Australia, Canada, the European Union and other countries have said the new law is in opposition to American calls for freer farm trade. Some critics say the increased aid may violate international trade rules.

However, President Bush says the farm program is within the limits set by the World Trade Organization. He says the success of America's farmers is necessary for the success of the American economy.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

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