WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush would veto a multibillion-dollar House bill extending government farm and nutrition programs because it doesn't do enough to reduce subsidies to growers, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Wednesday.
The House is expected to begin consideration of the five-year farm bill Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has backed the legislation but has faced criticism from groups who say it doesn't go far enough to trim government programs.
The bill, approved unanimously by the House Agriculture Committee last week, contains modest attempts at reform. It would ban federal subsidies to farmers with incomes averaging more than $1 million a year and stop farmers from collecting payments for multiple farm businesses.
Pelosi called the legislation a ``critical first step for reform.'' But Johanns said the millionaires proposal would only affect about 7,000 farmers, noting that the administration has suggested limiting subsidies for those with incomes of more than $200,000. That proposal would affect 38,000 farmers, Johanns said.
``There is a point at which people graduate from receiving government cash subsidies,'' Johanns told reporters Wednesday. ``We believe the bill put forth by the committee misses a major opportunity.''
Johanns also criticized a proposal by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, to pay for $4 billion in nutrition and food stamp programs by taxing overseas businesses that have subsidiaries in the United States. Doggett is on the Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with finding the nutrition money.
``I find it unacceptable to raise taxes to pay for a farm bill that contains virtually no reform,'' Johanns said.
Republicans on the Agriculture panel have supported the committee bill but have said they would not want to vote for a bill that raises taxes.
Johanns praised a proposed amendment by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and others to further cut back on subsidies and steer more money toward conservation, aid for specialty crops like fruits and vegetables, and nutrition and rural development programs.
``We see that as a real attempt at reform,'' Johanns said.
Kind's effort, which he said could cost $13 billion less, has divided Democrats and caused concern among farm-state lawmakers who argue it would devastate agricultural programs and cost the party its newly won majority.