denied for peanut, dairy programs

• WASHINGTON - Efforts to extend federal programs helping peanut and dairy farmers were quashed Tuesday as the House debated a bill funding several farm and food programs.

The Milk Income Loss Contract program pays dairy farmers when milk prices fall below a specified level. The peanut storage program pays storage and handling fees as peanut farmers market their crop.

Georgia GOP Rep. Jack Kingston obtained a one-year extension of the peanut program during Appropriations Committee debate on the bill earlier this month. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., won a one-month extension of the MILC program.

Those steps were noteworthy because they extended the two programs until the 2002 farm bill expires next year. That would have given supporters a leg up in extending them during next year's farm bill debate.

But Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., objected to the intrusion onto his turf and killed the provisions on procedural grounds.

''We will now face a situation under which dairy will be at a distinct disadvantage when the farm bill is renewed,'' Obey said.

Kingston predicted Georgia's senators would have more success in extending the peanut storage program, which expires at the end of the crop year.

The broader bill essentially freezes funding for programs under the direct control of lawmakers at $18.5 billion.

Retired Delta pilots ask court to reject deal

• ATLANTA - A group that represents some retired Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots asked a bankruptcy court judge Tuesday to reject the carrier's latest wage concession agreement with its pilots union.

The Delta Pilots' Pension Preservation Organization said in its objection that if the agreement reached last month is approved it would set the stage for drastically reducing certain pension benefits of the airline's 5,800 retired pilots.

A hearing on the objection is scheduled for May 31, the same day Delta's active pilots are scheduled to complete their voting on the agreement, which the nation's third-largest carrier says would save it an average of $280 million a year.

The court has the final say.

Delta has said in the past that the agreement has the support of creditors and the pilots union.

The retired pilots say the agreement is improper because they believe it goes beyond what is necessary to help Delta successfully reorganize. They also allege in their objection that Delta failed to negotiate the agreement ''so as to treat fairly and equitably all creditors and affected parties.''

The new agreement, which includes an initial 14 percent pay cut and assurances the union won't fight the company's likely plan to terminate the pilots' defined benefit pension plan, would replace an interim deal accepted by the pilots that became effective on Dec. 15.

Leaders of the pilots union ratified the new agreement on April 21, a week after the airline and union negotiators hammered out the deal.

.- From wire reports