Congress has approved an election-year overhaul of the Farm Bill that contains important conservation, trade, animal health and research provisions important to pork producers.

According to the National Pork Producers Council, the bill includes $9 billion in new funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, 60 percent or $6.6 billion of which will go to livestock producers to assist with manure management programs. A single farm will be able to get as much as $450,000.

NPPC also notes the farm bill boosts funding for programs that help U.S. producers break into foreign markets. The bill increases spending on the Market Access Program to $200 million over the next six years and increases spending on the Foreign Market Development Program. Plus, the Pseudorabies Eradication Program and the Animal Health Protection Act were part of the bill.

Although pleased with portions of the bill, NPPC was disappointed the Congress included country-of-origin labeling in the mix. The producer group contends that increased costs will fall on producers.

The Democratic-controlled Senate gave final approval to the legislation, 64-35, over the objections of Republicans who said it was too expensive and a step backward in policy. The House passed the bill by a vote of 280-141. President Bush has promised to sign the bill.

The bill raises subsidy rates for grain and cotton growers, who have traditionally dominated federal farm programs, and revives a target-price system abolished in 1996 to provide supplemental income. The bill also brings back subsidies for wool and honey producers and provides new payments for milk, peanuts, lentils and dry peas.

While trying to avoid future bailouts, this new bill was originally expected to cost about $170 billion over the next 10 years, but weaker-than-expected commodity prices are now expected to cause crop subsidies to rise and push the bill's total price tag to $190 billion.

The bill's increased subsidies have angered foreign competitors. The European Union said it may challenge the subsidies before the World Trade Organization.

Under WTO limits, certain U.S. farm subsidies cannot exceed $19.1 billion annually. However, the bill authorizes USDA to adjust subsidies to stay within the cap.

For more complete information on the farm bill, you can go to the House committee site at: http://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill.htm or the Senate committee site at: http://agriculture.senate.gov/Briefs/2001FarmBill/2001farmbill.html.

Associated Press, National Pork Producers Council