WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress on Wednesday overturned President George W. Bush’s second veto of the $289 billion U.S. farm law, enacting 35 pages omitted from the original bill in the third veto override of Bush’s tenure.
The rest of the farm bill became law on May 22, when the first override was passed. A clerical error deleted farm-export and food aid programs which now are part of the law.
“This bill is one of the most-passed bills we’ve done,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Congress has passed the farm law four times when overrides are counted.
The trade section reauthorizes the Food for Peace program, which distributes more than $1.2 billion in food aid annually, and three other food aid programs. It repeals a little-used export subsidy program and revamps three export credit programs in response to World Trade Organization rulings against U.S. cotton subsidies.
Congress overrode Bush’s veto the day before the president was due to visit flood damage in Iowa, the No 1 corn and soybean state.
“We are really hurting bad,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat. He said growers would benefit from a $3.8 billion disaster fund in the law.
In his veto message, Bush said Congress muffed its chance to reform farm policy and cut spending by billions of dollars.
He said the law subsidizes multimillionaire farmers at a time of rising food prices and takes steps, such as raising crop subsidy rates, contrary to calls for freer farm trade.
In an election year, a large majority of lawmakers, including many Republicans, backed the farm bill rather than stand with an unpopular president.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, presumptive Republican candidate for president, said he would veto the bill and would end “all farm subsidies that are not based on clear need.”
Two-thirds of spending under the 2008 farm law goes to nutrition programs like food stamps. It also expands land stewardship, biofuel development and specialty crop programs.
Under a provision of the new law, the wealthiest Americans would be barred from receiving crop subsides. Skeptics say only a few thousand people will be affected.
Bush faulted Congress for insisting on shipping U.S.-grown food as aid to poor nations instead of adopting his proposal to buy food aid near where it is needed. Bush said local purchases would save lives by delivering aid more quickly, and had proposed using up to a quarter of funding for the major food aid program.
Instead, Congress decided on a $60 million pilot program to test the idea.
In two terms as president, Bush has vetoed 11 bills and been overridden three times, twice on the farm bill this spring.
Each house of Congress needs a two-thirds vote to override a presidential veto.
Editing by David Gregorio