U.S. farm bill draws fire

July 13, 2012 at 10:07 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- A U.S. farm bill that passed through the House Agriculture Committee earned scorn from environmental advocacy groups.

The House version of the bill cuts spending for farm and nutrition programs by $35 billion, $12 billion more than the version that moved through the Senate in July. Both versions eliminate billions of dollars set aside in direct payments to farmers made annually regardless of production.

Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture and forest programs at the National Wildlife Federation, said the House version has potentially damaging consequences for prairies and wetlands. The House bill, she said, left aside soil and wetland conservation.

The Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists' food program, Justin Tatham, said the House version perpetuates "farm policies that disproportionately lavish subsidies on large-scale commodity crop producers and heavily processed foods, feed, and fuel instead of healthy food."

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House committee, defended the farm measure as a "balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill."

The NWF, however, said Lucas objected to an amendment to the measure that would limit subsidies for farming on native grasslands.

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