Congress last week passed a five-year, $307 billion farm bill that critics, including President Bush, called bloated and wasteful. Coming at a time of near-record crop prices, the 673-page bill continues traditional farm subsidies and for the first time covers fruit and vegetable growers, along with growers of cotton, wheat, and other grains. It also increases spending on nutrition programs by more than $10 billion, includes funding to protect Georgia’s red-cockaded woodpecker and other endangered species, and gives a tax break to race-horse owners.
Supported by a coalition that included environmental organizations, farm groups, and the biofuels industry, the bill passed in the House by a vote of 318 to 106 and in the Senate by 81 to 15—more than enough to override a threatened presidential veto. Still, the administration voiced its strong opposition. “This bill is loaded with taxpayer-funded pet projects,” said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, “at a time when Americans are struggling to buy groceries and afford gas to get to work.”