Expect battle over crop subsidies in new farm bill

Momentum is building in Congress for

overhauling farm subsidies because of tight budgets and increasing

enthusiasm for renewable fuels and conservation programs.

The current farm bill, which expires in September, provides

payments and other help to supplement farmers' incomes, support

crop prices and manage supplies. Any cuts in subsidies will face


President Bush sought similar reductions upon taking office. But

he made little headway in the latest farm bill, which Congress

wrote in 2002.

Since then, Democrats have regained control of the House and

energy prices have skyrocketed, leading to more calls for ethanol,

which is derived from plants. Record prices for corn and other

crops have some people questioning the need for subsidies.

The government paid out almost 17 (B) billion dollars in

subsidies last year, a drop of more than ten (B) billion dollars

from 2000.