Washington: The US House of Representatives on 27 July passed a massive farm bill packed with consequences for global trade, despite a veto threat from President George W. Bush.
The multi-billion dollar five-year package, which passed by 231 votes to 191, offers a safety net for farmers and ranchers, regulates subsidies and aid and includes nutrition and conservation programs.
Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the bill as taking “America’s farm policy in a new direction that stands with our farmers and ranchers and recognizes their vital role of providing food, fiber, and fuel for America and the world”.
But Bush’s Republican administration threatened to veto the legislation, partly over what it says are high subsidies, a major stumbling block in the Doha Round of global trade negotiations.
Some Republicans, who had been disposed to support the bill, withdrew their backing after Democrats added a tax hike on some foreign-owned companies with US subsidiaries to partly fund government nutrition programs.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns blasted the “11th-hour” adoption late Thursday of the tax hike, saying it unfairly pits farmers against another sector in the economy.
“We have seen the polarizing impact of developing funding for farm policy under the cloak of secrecy,” he said. “It’s historic and, I might add, not in a positive way.”
The head of the Republican minority in the House, John Boehner, complained that the new bill threatened the jobs of 5.1 million Americans.
“At a time when China, India and Russia are opening their doors to expand their economies and attract investment, these tax hikes send the signal to every potential investor in the global economy that it’s not worth the hassle to invest in America,” Boehner said.