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House Supports Farm Bill

The House voted to override President Bush's veto of a $300 billion farm bill on Wednesday evening...

WASHINGTON — The House voted to override President Bush's veto of a $300 billion farm bill on Wednesday evening, with lawmakers arguing that the bill contained reforms and struck the right balance between nutrition and conservation programs and agriculture subsidies.

The vote was 316-108, more than the two-thirds needed for an override of the President's veto. The Senate was expected to hold an override vote late Wednesday night or this morning. President Bush vetoed the bill on Wednesday, forcing the showdown with Congress.

The bill, which provides five years of funding for several federal programs, has trade implications for apparel retailers and brands. It provides a two-year extension of a trade preference program for Caribbean countries and expanded trade benefits for Haiti. It could also potentially help retailers and apparel brands save millions of dollars in additional duties by delaying a proposed U.S. Customs and Border Protection rule change.

On the global stage, the bill could endanger the Doha Round of trade talks aimed at lowering tariffs and subsidies among World Trade Organization members because of a stalemate between rich and poor countries over the level of cuts in agriculture subsidies.

Bush administration officials have said they fear the new farm bill will send the wrong message to developing countries because it maintains and, in some cases, increases agriculture subsidies for U.S. farmers. One provision in particular that could damage the talks and spark a trade war will reinstate a broader U.S. cotton subsidy program that the WTO deemed illegal in 2004. The provision in the new bill will give U.S. textile mills 4 cents a pound on the cost of domestic and imported cotton they use.

Brazil, which won the 2004 WTO case against the U.S. cotton subsidy program, has the right to retaliate for as much as $1 billion a year in sanctions until the U.S. brings the measures into full conformity.