WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration has done too little to rejuvenate the nation's farm economy, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said today.
''Although Congress and the president have agreed on the need to provide financial help to farmers, the Clinton administration has not focused sufficient attention on the broader problems facing agriculture,'' Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana said in the weekly Republican radio address. He owns a corn and soybean farm in his home state.
Lugar said the administration has not worked hard enough to lower barriers to U.S. food exports or to reduce energy prices. He also said farmers were hurt by President Clinton's veto last year of a $792 billion tax-cut package.
Grain prices collapsed in 1998 and are likely to remain relatively low through this year. Congress has provided $15 billion over the past years to compensate for the lower prices and will give farmers at least $7 billion more this year, Lugar said.
The administration's failure to make progress at last year's world trade talks in Seattle ''was a major disappointment to the agricultural community,'' he contended.
Congress also is close to finishing work on an overhaul of the federal subsidized crop insurance program that will sharply reduce the premiums that farmers pay for the coverage, Lugar noted.
Democrats say farmers were harmed by passage of the 1996 Freedom to Farm law, which lowered crop subsidies and ended a Depression-era system of production controls.
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