WASHINGTON — THE United States House, after bitter accusations over who was to blame for the painful cuts, passed a bill Oct. 23 that would lead to a 25 percent cut in farm spending, but give farmers more freedom to look for moneymaking crops. The farm-policy bill, which now goes to the Senate, also takes new steps to protect water supplies from contamination by farm chemicals as well as creating the first-ever nationwide rules on what can be called organic food.
President Bush was expected to sign the bill, which sets the terms for farm subsidies, export promotion, research, and public feeding programs for the next five years. The bill passed the House 318 to 102.
Lawmakers reluctantly embraced the ``triple base'' plan in order to meet budget guidelines. Under triple base, 15 percent of the nation's wheat, feed grain, cotton, and rice land would be ineligible for subsidies but farmers would be allowed to grow crops on the land.
Triple base is the centerpiece of $13.6 billion in cuts in projected farm program costs. As a precaution, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees made the cuts contingent on passage over an overall bill to reduce the federal deficit by $500 billion.
Throughout debate, congressmen said they hoped the new crop flexibility would allow farmers to find profitable crops.