WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, on Monday said he agreed with President George W. Bush’s decision to the $289 billion farm bill because it did not cut subsidies to wealthy farmers enough.
“I would veto that bill,” McCain said, calling the farm bill an unwarranted handout to corporate farmers and an obstacle to freer agricultural trade worldwide.
“I would veto that bill, and all others like it that serve only the cause of special interests and corporate welfare,” McCain said in remarks prepared for a speech in Chicago.
McCain, an Arizona Republican, said excessive U.S. farm subsidies were an obstacle to negotiations to remove trade barriers and unfair agricultural subsidies in other nations.
The five-year farm bill also would increase funding for nutrition programs including food stamps, land stewardship and biofuels development. It also allows higher subsidy rates for wheat and soybeans.
A few thousand farmers would be affected by language to deny one type of farm subsidy to the wealthiest Americans.
The White House says it expects to receive a final copy of the bill this week and Bush will veto it. Agriculture Committee leaders in the House and Senate say they have the votes to enact the bill over a veto.
A majority of Republicans in Congress joined Democrats to pass the bill by majorities large enough to override a veto, 318-106 in the House and 81-15 in the Senate.
Separately, some 57 percent of 384 people who responded by Monday afternoon to an online poll Agriculture Online, an Iowa-based Internet site for farmers, said they also would veto the farm bill.
In that poll, 34 percent said of the respondents said they would not veto the farm bill, and 9 percent were not sure.
John Walter, an Agriculture Online editor, said the Web site asks readers’ opinions regularly. “Every so often, you see a poll that reverses your expectations,” he said.
None of the three senators running for president — McCain and Democrats Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois — voted on the bill. Clinton and Obama applauded Senate passage of the bill and said Bush should sign it.
The Agriculture Online poll is available at www.agriculture.com (Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by David Gregorio)