Lawmakers reach farm bill accord

n The White House repeats its

opposition to $300 billion plan.

BY MARY CLARE JALONICK

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.

In some cases, farm couples with incomes totaling $2.5 million – assuming $1 million is from other, non-farm sources – could also qualify. That’s far too rich for the Bush administration, which renewed President Bush’s threat to veto the package as being too generous to wealthy farmers.

The legislation would:

n Increase the nutrition programs, including food stamps and emergency domestic food assistance, by more than $10 billion. It would also expand a program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to schoolchildren;

n Expand subsidies for certain crops, extend dairy programs and increase loan rates for sugar producers. It includes language which calls on the federal government to buy surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol producers, where it would be used in a mixture with corn;

n Make small cuts to direct payments, which are distributed to some producers no matter how much they grow;

n Cut a pgr-gallon ethanol tax credit that supports blending fuel with the corn-based additive from 51 cents to 45 cents in favor of more money for cellulosic ethanol, which is made from plant matter;

n Add dollars for conservation programs designed to protect farmland;

n Eliminate loopholes that now allow farmers to collect subsidies for multiple farm businesses;

n Cut expanded food assistance for an international school lunch program that was passed in the House farm bill last year. While the House had included more than $800 million in permanent dollars for the McGovern-Dole program, the final bill includes less than $100 million;

n Pay farmers for weather-related farm losses out of a $3.8 billion disaster assistance fund;

The bill would eliminate some government payments to individuals who make more than $750,000 – or married farmers who make more than $1.5 million – in farm income annually.

Individuals who make more than $500,000, or couples who make more than $1 million jointly, in non-farm income would also be ineligible for subsidies.

Under current law, there is no income limit for farmers, and married couples who make less than one-fourth of their income from farming will not receive subsidies if their joint income exceeds $5 million.