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South expected to dodge cuts in farm bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress prepared to take up a new farm bill earlier this year, prospects for Southern growers looked bleak.

President Bush had proposed slashing the number of farmers eligible for government help. Midwesterners touting corn as a national wonder-crop had taken over the agriculture committees in the House and Senate. Even the most enthusiastic backers of federal subsidies were acknowledging that budget cuts were inevitable, with top Southern crops like cotton, rice and peanuts squarely on the chopping block.

But after months of lobbying and negotiation, Southern farm groups are grudgingly satisfied with the legislation that passed the House last month. The region may yet see cuts as action moves to the Senate, but lawmakers so far appear inclined to continue the complex system of commodity supports that has treated Southern agriculture well over the years.

“Not everybody is happy ... but it could have been a lot worse,” Keith Gray, director of national affairs for the Alabama Farmers Federation, said of the House bill.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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