Bush signs $190 billion farm bill
'Farming is the first industry of America'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday signed a 10-year, $190 billion farm bill that promises to expand subsidies to growers.
"This bill is generous and will provide a safety net for farmers, and it will do so without encouraging overproduction and depressing prices," Bush said at a signing ceremony. "It will allow farmers and ranchers to plan and operate based on market realities, not government dictates."
The bill guarantees a more stable income by raising subsidies for grain and cotton growers -- traditionally, they have dominated federal farm programs -- by reviving subsidies for wool and honey, and by providing new payments for milk, peanuts, lentils and dry peas.
"Farming is the first industry of America -- the industry that feeds us, the industry that clothes us, and the industry that increasingly provides more of our energy," Bush said. "The success of America's farmers and ranchers is essential to the success of the American economy."
There's also an 80-percent increase in spending on land-conservation programs intended to benefit livestock farms and fruit and vegetable growers, who historically get little federal cash.
Support for the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act waned after commodity prices plummeted in 1998 and Congress responded with a series of annual bailouts of the farm economy.
The legislation was originally expected to cost about $170 billion over the next 10 years, but weaker-than-expected commodity prices are now expected to cause crop subsidies to rise and push the total price tag to $190 billion.
Some lawmakers have criticized the farm bill, saying its lavish subsidies prompt crop surpluses and do little to close loopholes for the corporate farmers who receive roughly 80 percent of annual subsidies.
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