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Defense spending, farm bill get congressional okay

The Senate approved the 1990 farm bill Thursday, sending the president legislation that clears the way for crop subsidy cuts and gives farmers new rules for conserving their land. The five-year, $40.8-billion measure, setting policy for virtually every operation within the Agriculture Department, was passed 60-36. The House had approved 318-102 on Tuesday.

The legislation is a compromise of the two bills approved during the summer by the House and Senate. It establishes environmental rules farmers must follow, sets out the government's nutrition programs, including food stamps, determines trade policy for food products and sets the government's support programs for commodities.

Besides melding House and Senate language in all these areas, the conference committee of the two houses also decided to reduce subsidized acreage by 15 percent if budget negotiators follow through on their plan to cut agriculture spending by more than $13-billion over the next five years.

Both Senate and House members were careful to point out that the subsidy reduction hinges on the budget being approved. Without it, subsidized acreage would be maintained at current levels.

Senators who voted against the bill criticized the conference committee's money-saving plan, saying it would hurt farmers.

But Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said even with expected budget cuts, farmers won't lose income.

He pointed out that target prices have been frozen and loan rates in some areas raised. He said farmers would be able to use the 15 percent of acreage being taken off government subsidized crops to plant according to consumer demand.

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