WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congress is sending to the White House legislation that would require the Agriculture Department to develop computer systems allowing farmers to fill out program applications over the Internet.

The bill also directs the department to ensure that information regarding farm programs, quarterly trade reports and agency and production reports are electronically available.

The House passed the bill, already approved by the Senate, by a 397-1 vote, opposed only by Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. The president is expected to sign it.

``This legislation will bring the Department of Agriculture into the 21st century by allowing farmers, producers and people in rural America to do their business with the USDA over the Internet,'' said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., the chief sponsor.

Bill supporters said USDA has made progress in enabling people to complete program applications electronically, but has not done enough to coordinate among the many farm, conservation and rural development programs it runs.

The bill gives the USDA 180 days to develop a common method for making program applications and information electronically accessible.


The bill number is S. 777.

On the Net: The text of the bill: http://thomas.loc.gov/