WASHINGTON — A $5.5 billion economic assistance package for farmers suffering from low commodity prices was passed by voice vote in the House this week.

The bill, if approved in the Senate and signed into law, would cap supplemental aid to farmers at that amount for the 2001 crop year.

The $5.5 billion package is considerably less than the $9.7 billion approved for supplemental farm aid at the same point last year and well short of the $9 billion requested by farm groups. The aid, in the form of supplemental payments made under an existing program, would be distributed to farmers before Sept. 30.

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