Senate Approves Historic Farm Legislation

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WASHINGTON, D. C.: The Senate passed a landmark farm bill that would roll back crop-subsidy programs born in the Great Depression. "This is a complete departure from the past," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Passed on a 74 to 26 vote, the far-reaching House- Senate compromise plan is expected to win House approval before Congress leaves for a two-week recess March 30. Although President Clinton says he has some reservations about the bill, he is expected to sign it. The measure would wean wheat, corn and cotton farmers off the current system of crop supports by replacing it with a seven- year program of declining, fixed payments. "This bill, for all of the huffing and puffing of those who support it, basically pulls the safety net out from under family farmers," said North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan. The bill addresses the contentious issue of dairy subsidies by ending a special tax on dairy producers and phasing down government support for butter, powdered milk and cheese over a four year period. The measure also guarantees food stamp programs for two years and preserves rural conservation programs. Supporters contend that although initial spending may increase, the legislation will eventually save some $2 billion over the next seven years.