AS EXPECTED, President Bush signed the fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill into law, but not before he took a swipe at Congress for including $3.1 billion in “un-requested agricultural aid” in the $397.4 billion measure.

Throughout the months of debate on the agricultural disaster assistance portions of the bill, the administration insisted that funding be taken out of the farm programs in the 2002 farm bill.

In a statement released following the signing, the president said that while he believed that Congress generally held the line on spending in keeping with his requests, the funding authorization for the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1 was about $11 billion more than he had sought.

“The bill also includes $3.3 billion in un-requested drought and other assistance, which is only minimally offset by real reductions in existing farm spending,” the statement said. “Ninety-five percent of purported savings are scheduled to come several years from now, after the expiration of today's farm bill, and may prove illusory.”

According to the House Agriculture Committee, the bill will provide $3.1 billion in assistance with $2.1 billion going to producers who suffered crop losses of more than 35 percent in 2001 or 2002 with the remainder going to livestock producers, fruit and vegetable growers and tobacco farmers.