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President vetoes farm bill; override votes up soon

President George W. Bush on Wednesday vetoed the farm bill, officially titled the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The House of Representatives was expected to vote on overriding the veto Wednesday afternoon and a Senate override vote was possible as well.

In his veto message to the House, Bush repeated the administration's opposition to its cost and lack of reform in commodity program payments.

"At a time when net farm income is projected to increase by more than $28 billion in 1 year, the American taxpayer should not be forced to subsidize that group of farmers who have adjusted gross incomes of up to $1.5 million," Bush said in the message. "When commodity prices are at record highs, it is irresponsible to increase government subsidy rates for 15 crops, subsidize additional crops, and provide payments that further distort markets. Instead of better targeting farm programs, this bill eliminates the existing payment limit on marketing loan subsidies."

Bush said the new farm bill fails to meet the qdministration's goal of moving toward more market-oriented farm policies.

"I veto this bill fully aware that it is rare for a stand-alone farm bill not to receive the President's signature, but my action today is not without precedent," Bush added. "In 1956, President Eisenhower stood firmly on principle, citing high crop subsidies and too much government control of farm programs among the reasons for his veto. President Eisenhower wrote in his veto message, 'Bad as some provisions of this bill are, I would have signed it if in total it could be interpreted as sound and good for farmers and the nation.' For similar reasons, I am vetoing the bill before me today."

In a meeting with reporters after the veto, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner acknowledged that convincing members of Congress to sustain the veto "is an uphill climb."

The House passed the farm bill last week with a vote of 318 to 106, well over the 290 votes needed to override the veto. The Senate's vote of 81 to 15 was also well over the two-thirds majority needed to override the President.

Conner said the administration has been making its case both to the public and to individual members of Congress. Representatives had less than 24 hours to read the bill before voting, he said.

The administration found earmarks for land sales in Montana and New Hampshire and for the California salmon industry, he said. And when in analyzed the new Average Crop Revenue Election in the farm bill, it found the potential for billions of dollars in potential farm bill costs if crop prices fall.

If corn prices fall to about $3,30 a bushel, "this bill would have an additional $10 billion in outlays just for one crop," Conner said.

President George W. Bush on Wednesday vetoed the farm bill, officially titled the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The House of Representatives was expected to vote on overriding the veto Wednesday afternoon and a Senate override vote was possible as well.

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