U.S. President George W. Bush has signed legislation that significantly increases federal government subsidies for American farmers and ranchers. The measure sets aside $190 billion over six years for farm programs. The legislation carries a hefty price tag, but President Bush says it is worth the cost. "The success of America's farmers and ranchers is essential to the success of the American economy," he said.
Mr. Bush says as the former governor of the second largest agricultural state in the nation, he understands the problems faced by the farm community.
"I recently spent some time with some of my neighbors at the coffee shop in Crawford, Texas," he said. "I know how hard many struggle. Their livelihood depends on things they cannot control: weather, crop disease, uncertain pricing."
The president says the new farm bill takes into account market realities. He says it provides support and help when times are tough.
But the bill has its critics, both at home and abroad. Fiscal conservatives in the president's own Republican party say the government will spend too much money on subsidies at a time when the budget is in deficit. Others say the legislation is an effort to win political support for the president and incumbent members of Congress in key farm states.
Overseas, there are cries that the increased subsidies may be in violation of international trade rules. However, President Bush says the farm program is within the caps set by the WTO.
"This farm bill supports our commitment to open trade and complies with our obligations to the World Trade Organization."
Mr. Bush stresses exports are crucial to the farm economy, and he vows America will keep its trade commitments.