President Bush says a Senate-passed farm bill “doesn't get the job done” and pledges to work with congressional negotiators on a compromise that would be less costly and better for producers.

The Democratic-crafted bill, which passed the Senate 58-40 on Wednesday, authorizes $45 billion in new spending for agriculture, conservation and nutrition spending over the next five years, a 26 percent increase over current programs. A House-passed measure, also criticized by the Bush administration, authorized a $38 billion increase over the same period.

The White House says the Senate bill is too expensive and certain to stimulate price-depressing crop surpluses because of its increases in subsidy rates. The legislation also could violate subsidy limits under an international trade agreement.

But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said the Senate bill would “provide certainty to producers, fix our failed farm safety net and help address the challenges we face in rural America.”

One of Bush's top priorities, the creation of special subsidized savings accounts for farmers, a cornerstone of Canadian farm policy, was soundly rejected by the Senate, 80-17. Bush and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman have said they want Congress to authorize the savings program.

Democrats said the Senate vote suggests there is little congressional support for the idea.

Both the House and Senate versions represent dramatic departures from the Republican-authored 1996 farm law that was intended to wean farmers from government subsidies.

“I am committed to sound farm policy that supports America's farmers and ranchers and am disappointed that the Senate-passed bill doesn't get the job done,” Bush said. “This bill front-loads spending into the first five years, leaving vital programs underfunded in the years that follow.”

Senate Democratic leaders added money in the early years of the bill to expand conservation programs and win the support of environmental groups.

Associated Press