FARM PACKAGE WOULD SLASH EXPORT SUBSIDIES

FARM PACKAGE WOULD SLASH EXPORT SUBSIDIES

A final package of farm program cuts put together by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., reduces spending on export subsidies by $1.17 billion over the next seven years and caps enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program at the current level of 36.4 million acres.

The package also eliminates the sugar marketing quota and allotments and reduces the peanut price support loan rate. But in most other aspects, the final version of Rep. Roberts' "Freedom to Farm Act" is largely similar to the plan he outlined in early August.The Roberts plan provides $43.2 billion for spending on mandatory farm programs over the next seven years, including $38.4 billion in predetermined annual subsidy payments for wheat, corn, cotton, rice, barley, sorghum and oats.

Altogether, the cap on farm subsidy payments and other cuts save a total of $13.4 billion over the next seven years, the amount required under a Republican plan to balance the budget. The plan also provides farmers with much more planting flexibility than they have under current farm programs.

The House Agriculture Committee will meet this week to consider the Roberts plan, as well as an alternative Republican package for achieving the $13.4 billion in budget cuts put together by Rep. Larry Combest, R-Texas, and Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Mo.

Democrats also are expected to offer a proposal that would cut farm programs by just $4.2 billion over the next seven years, in line with what the Clinton administration has recommended.

Committee aides said that Rep. Roberts remains optimistic that the farm panel will approve his plan, despite the challenge from Rep. Emerson and Rep. Combest, two senior members of the farm panel.

Because Democrats are expected to oppose cuts of more than $4.2 billion, Rep. Roberts must get 25 of the 27 Republican votes on the panel to approve his plan.