President Bush's announced plan to sell 1.5 million metric tons of subsidized wheat to the Soviet Union was praised in Congress but didn't settle concerns about the future of the export bonus program.
Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, who had pressed the president to use export subsidies in the Soviet sale, said Bush's decision Tuesday sends "a strong signal America is playing to win in the international marketplace.""This action is welcome news for our farmers," he said.
"I applaud it," said Rep. Dan Glickman, a Kansas Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee on wheat, soybeans and feed grain. "But in announcing this deal the administration did not quell the concern about the future of the Export Enhancement Program."
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he talked to the president by telephone Monday night and urged him to approve the deal.
"There should be grain sales to the Soviets," he said. "I'm a strong supporter of using the Export Enhancement Program when it makes sense."
Competition in the international wheat market is strong, with many other countries using heavy subsidies to lure buyers. The Export Enhancement Program has been the U.S. response to the competition, but its future has been in doubt.
The Bush administration, following the lead of the Reagan administration, has called for eventual elimination of all export subsidies worldwide, though the president has said he would not do away with EEP unless other countries did likewise.
Nevertheless, no EEP sales have been processed since the end of February and Congress has been after the administration to start moving.
"They were reacting to congressional pressure," Glickman said of the president's announcement.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing last month, an Agriculture Department official said the program had been suspended pending a budget review.