The Senate wants to spend nearly $4 billion to help farmers cope with high fuel prices and damage from severe weather. House leaders object to the aid, saying Congress spends taxpayer dollars too freely, and President Bush is threatening to veto the aid.

The White House dislikes the farm aid because it raises the price of a spending bill for the Iraq war and hurricane recovery. Beyond that, the farm money wouldn't give energy relief to every farmer, said Bush's agriculture secretary, Mike Johanns.

"My goodness, can I say to these folks, that's fair; you should be satisfied with that?" Johanns told reporters last week in Chicago, where he was speaking to fruit and vegetable growers.

That's four of every 10 farmers, according to the Agriculture Department. Subsidies go primarily to those who grow corn, wheat, rice, cotton and soybeans.

So while California has more than twice as many farms as North Dakota, California farmers would get less energy aid than North Dakota farmers, according to analysis by Environmental Working Group, one of many groups that criticize subsidy programs.

"An irrigated orchard in Oregon is just as dependent as corn and soybean operations in North Dakota, if not more dependent," said Scott Faber, spokesman for Environmental Defense.

Congress should find ways to end the need for annual bailout from Congress, such as providing incentives to farmers to use energy more efficiently, Faber said.

Another $40 million would pay for extra Agriculture Department employees to process the aid payments, according to analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

Gulf Coast hurricanes weren't the only disaster for farmers last year. Some parts of the country suffered from floods while drought persisted throughout the Midwest and Southwest. Many farmers lost entire crops or left fields unharvested; some quit altogether.

"To our family businesses in the state of Arkansas, the disasters they've suffered are no less than the disasters suffered in the Gulf State region," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

The Senate added billions of dollars the president didn't ask for, such as the farm aid. House conservatives, urged on by Bush's veto threat, will try to strip the extras from the bill when House-Senate negotiators meet in coming weeks.

It will spend at least another $3.6 billion on crop insurance, which covers unavoidable crop losses. Unlike subsidies, which go to the major crops, crop insurance is available for all kinds of crops, from avocados to macadamia nuts to sunflowers.

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