THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release July 23, 1998 3:12 P.M. EDT
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT RURAL RADIO CONFERENCE CALL
The Oval Office
Listen to Radio Press Conference with Real Audio player
THE PRESIDENT: Hello. This is Agriculture SecretaryDan Glickman, and I want to start out by thanking all the folks outthere in the country for joining us on this call, and welcomingeverybody to the Oval Office.
Having the honor of being Secretary for more than threeyears now, I've had for the most of that time the pleasure ofpresiding over some of the strongest times in America's agriculturalhistory. But today, there are pockets of farm country that are inreal, extreme distress.
While parts of our country are blessed with near-perfectgrowing conditions, other regions of America are cursed with some ofthe worst weather in generations. And this abuse from Mother Naturecomes right when a new farm bill erased many of the protections thatfarmers relied on in the past.
I don't think anyone wants to go back to the days ofgovernment telling farmers what and how much to plant or when theyshould get out of bed in the morning and go to sleep at night and allsorts of other things. But when President Clinton signed the 1996Farm Bill, he made it clear that we as a nation need to build asturdy farm safety net for the future. And that is the unfinishedbusiness of the 1996 Farm Bill.
Having recently spent time with farmers and ranchers inthe Dakotas, in Georgia, in South Carolina and Florida, time withfamilies who have lost their land, time with many more who are barelyhanging on, I know just how important it is that Congress listen toPresident Clinton. We are very fortunate in this time of challengeto have as our President a man who is a son of rural America --someone who has spent time during his boyhood summers working on hisgrandfather's farm in rural Arkansas. Someone who knows firsthandthat agriculture is hard, risky work, and that government has a roleto play in helping farmers and ranchers weather hard times.
Here to share his thoughts on building a strong, securefuture for America's farmers and ranchers is our President, PresidentBill Clinton.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary Glickman.And I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to speak to peoplein rural America.
Today, most of our fellow citizens are enjoying thedividends of the strongest American economy in a generation. We havethe lowest unemployment rate in 28 years. We're about to have thefirst balanced budget and surplus in 29 years with the highest homeownership in American history. But with the economic crisis in Asiahurting our farm exports with crop prices squeezed by abundant worldsupplies and with farms devastated by floods and fires and droughts,communities in parts of the South and Great Plains are withering. In
Texas, almost three-quarters of the cotton crop is lost; and in NorthDakota, retired auctioneers are being pressed into duty just tohandle all the families who are being forced to sell their farms.
Secretary Glickman and I are joined in the Oval Officetoday by several young leaders of the FFA. They represent the futureof American agriculture and they deserve a chance to have thatfuture. As the former Governor of a state that depends heavily onfarming, I know we must never turn our backs on farmers when MotherNature or the world economy turns a callous eye.
Our farm communities feed our nation and much of theworld. They also nourish the values on which our country was born,and which had led us now for over 220 years -- hard work, and faith,and family, devotion to community and to the land. We simply can'tflourish if we let our rural roots shrivel and decline.
For five and half years, I've worked to expandopportunity for farm families, providing critical disaster assistanceto ranchers who have lost livestock, purchasing surplus commoditiesfor school lunches, working to diversify the sources of income inrural America, increasing our use of export credits by a third in thepast year alone. But this year's farm crisis demands that we providemore help to farmers teetering on the edge.
Last Saturday, I directed Secretary Glickman to buy morethan 80 million bushels of wheat to help lift prices for Americanfarmers, while easing hunger in the developing world. Today, inaddition to helping citizens in 11 southern states, beat byunrelenting heat, I'm announcing we will provide immediate disasterassistance for farmers throughout the state of Texas to help thosewhose crops and livestock have been ravaged by drought.
Next week, I'll send Secretary Glickman to Texas andOklahoma to talk with drought-stricken farmers and assess what otherhelp they require. Once again, I urge Congress: We must provide the$500 million in emergency assistance, sponsored by Senators Conrad,Dorgan, Daschle and Harkin, for farmers and ranchers throughout thecountry who have been afflicted not only by drought, but also byfires and floods and other disasters. They are our neighbors inneed.
With these measures, we can help farmers weather thecurrent crisis. But to strengthen rural America for the long run, wehave to do more. First, we have to revive the rural economy withexports. Today, products from one of every three acres planted inAmerica are sold abroad. We have to continue to open new foreignmarkets and enforce our existing trade agreements. We must give theInternational Monetary Fund the resources it needs to strengthen andreform the Asian economies so that they will have the money to buyour farm products.
Yesterday, unfortunately, the House of Representativesdelayed this critical funding for the IMF. American farmers cannotafford to wait; they need help now. We should also be prepared todonate food generously to those around the world at risk ofmalnutrition or starvation. As a general principle, I believecommercial exports of food should not be used as a tool of foreignpolicy, except under the most compelling circumstances.
A week ago, I signed the Agricultural Export Relief Act,enabling U.S. farmers to sell 300,000 tons of wheat to Pakistan thenext day. I urge Congress to provide me authority to waive sanctionson food when it is in the national interest, and to work with me toincorporate flexibility and sanctions policy more broadly.
Second, we simply have to strengthen the farm safetynet. We should expand eligibility for direct and guaranteed loans,improved crop insurance, which is not working for a lot of farmerstoday, and extend marketing loans when crop prices are too low.
And we should give farmers more flexibility and planningwhen to receive federal income support claimants and in planting newcrops when their primary crops fail. I proposed allowing our farmersto receive federal income support payments early last spring. Thereis now some support for it apparently in the Congress; I hope verymuch it will pass soon.
Third, we must improve the infrastructure in ruralcommunities. We have to preserve universal service and defend thevital e-rate initiative so that all rural homes can count onaffordable telephone rates and rural schools, libraries and healthcenters can tap into the promise of the Internet. We have tomodernize rural schools and transportation systems, improve thequality of rural health with advanced telemedicine, cleaner drinkingwater and safer food.
These steps are in the best tradition of our nation.Whenever disaster strikes, Americans join together to help see theirneighbors through. That's what happened in Florida when brave menand women from across the country help put out the state's fires, andthat's what we'll do throughout rural America to save our farmersfrom losing their homes and crops.
At this moment of broad prosperity for our nation, weare certainly able to, and we clearly must, help our neighbors on thefarm throughout this current crisis so that we can strengthen ourrural communities for the 21st century. Now, I'll be happy to takeyour questions.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Mr. President. I get tobe the role of moderator today, and our first questions come --
THE PRESIDENT: You sound kind of like a deejay.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: That's right. You should hear mesing. But we won't do that here. Our first question comes fromShelley Beyer who is with the Brown Field Network out of JeffersonCity, Missouri.
Shelley, are you on?
MS. BEYER: Yes, I am. Greetings, Mr. President and Mr.Secretary.
Mr. President, some of the measures that many lawmakerssay would help low farm prices are not scheduled to come up inCongress until after the August recess if at all this session. I'mreferring mainly to fast track authority. Of course, farmers andranchers are experiencing low prices now. Would you support movingup discussion on fast track?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Shelley, fast track wouldn'tactually help the farmers right now. I would support voting on fasttrack whenever we think we can pass it. But, you know, we had a hugestruggle to pass fast track earlier this year and we failed. Ibelieve it will pass early next year. I don't believe that any voteshave changed.
And keep in mind what fast track does. Fast tracksimply gives me the authority that previous Presidents have had tonegotiate new trade agreements tearing down trade barriers toAmerican products in other countries. By contrast, getting thefunding for the International Monetary Fund will immediately createmarkets for American products.
Let me just give you an example. About 40 to 50 percentof our grains are exported. Forty percent of our export market is inAsia. If you take all the Asian countries except for Japan andChina, our exports are down 30 percent because of their economicproblems -- they're down 13 percent in Japan, they're down 6 percentin China.
Now, if we could get the International Monetary Fundfunding, and those countries could get more money, then they'llimmediately have more money to buy our food. So I think that the IMFfunding will do more in the short run to boost American farm prices.
Now, over the next year, we've got to get the fast trackauthority so that we can continue to open more markets. We will alsobegin negotiations in the World Trade Organization to try to getevery country that signed on to that to lower their agriculturaltariffs and other barriers so that we can sell in more markets.
So I agree that we need to do fast track. I amdetermined to get other countries to lower their agriculturalbarriers, but all that takes time. And if I had the fast trackauthority tomorrow, it would still take time to open those marketsand reach those agreements. We need to open the markets now. That'swhy the International Monetary Fund is more important, because itwill flow cash into countries, they'll immediately have money whenthey can immediately start to buy more food.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Thank you very much, Shelley. Oursecond question is from Gary Wergen of WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa.Gary, are you on?
MR. WERGEN: I certainly am, Mr. Secretary. And, yes,you do sing well. We have had experience with that.
Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on Shelley'scomments a little bit. On the fast track issue, why haven't we beenable to pull those Democratic votes? When you were giving the Stateof the Union address, you made an impassioned plea; you addressed oneof the key issues, which was child labor, and Congress Boswell wasconvinced that you were adopting his language and that we'd be ableto get those Democratic votes. Yet, Mr. McCurry is referring to thisas political mischief at this point. Why haven't we been able tomove this issue?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe that what happened was themembers got dug in before they saw the final bill. And I also thinkthat there were more Republicans voting against it than the Speakerthought. This was one issue where, notwithstanding ourwell-publicized conflicts, Speaker Gingrich and I worked hand inglove and we worked very, very hard.
But the truth is that, for reasons that I wasn't privyto, by the time the bill was actually brought up in the House, thepeople who were against fast track had been working against it sohard they'd gotten so many commitments, that when -- even though thebill, on its merits, I think, was very much deserving of passing andmet a lot of the concerns for labor rights, for environmentalconcerns, and other things, we couldn't get the votes.
The only point I want to make is, to the best of myknowledge, we have not changed either 10 Democratic votes or 10Republican votes from no to yes. If we don't have those votes, whywould we kill the Africa trade bill, which is good for us, or theCaribbean trade bill, or even more important by far, theInternational Monetary Fund, by tying all this stuff together? Whynot pass what we can pass now, get the immediate benefits and thenwork on passing fast track when the election is behind us?
I think it's clear that it will pass early next year,because it's manifestly in the national interest, and because,frankly, then a lot of the members of Congress who got committedagainst it early, will be forced to look at what the actual detailsof the bill say and will feel freer to vote for it.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Gary.
Next we go to Arkansas, the President's home state. Andthird up is Stewart Doan of the Arkansas Radio Network, out of KARNin Little Rock. Stewart.
MR. DOAN: Thank you Mr. Secretary and good afternoonfrom Little Rock, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Stewart. What's the temperaturedown there?
MR. DOAN: Right about 100, sir. About the same as itwas when you were out at Chenal.
THE PRESIDENT: I know -- it was over 100 both days Iwas out there.
MR. DOAN: Yes, sir. Good to visit with you and behalfof the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. We trulyappreciate this opportunity to visit with you.
Senator Harkin, Senator Daschle, Congressman Gephardt,others, in describing the farm law of two years ago, dubbed "freedomto farm," have called it "freedom to fail," and have blamed it formuch of the crisis that we find ourselves in today in Americanagriculture. Do you agree with that characterization that they haveplaced on this bill and would you support, as they are pushing,uncapping marketing loan rates -- in other words, increasing theguaranteed minimum price for grain, soy beans, and cotton?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think I wouldpartly agree with what they say. I think that fundamental cause ofthe crisis today is a price crisis. It's a market crisis caused by acombination of things. You've got adequate -- and more than adequate-- world supplies. You've got a significant decline in the economiccapacity of Asia to buy our food products. You've got a big drop inthe currency values in other countries relative to the Americandollar, which makes our food, relatively speaking, more expensive,which makes it even harder. And that's a big problem. And then inAmerica, you've also got a disaster crisis. You've got some placeswhere they have no price and no crop. Usually when farmers have nocrop, at least the no crop they have has a high price, because thesupply has dried up. But now the worldwide supply is so big thatthey've got a double hit. So that's the fundamental problem.
When I signed the '96 Freedom to Farm bill, I pointedout that it had a lot of good provisions in it, but it didn't have areal safety net. Let's remember what the good provisions were.Number one, it got the government out of micromanaging planningdecisions. Number two, it had terrific conservation provisions.Number three, it had good rural development provisions. And I had nochoice but to sign it, because if I hadn't we would have been back onthe '49 farm law, which would have been even worse for the farmers.But I said in '96, the crop prices are not going to be high foreverand when they drop we're going to regret not having an adequatesafety net. So the first thing we have to do is to develop anadequate safety net.
Now, let me just -- you asked about the proposals bySenator Harkin and others; let me just run through some of the thingsthat I have proposed, and then I'll answer your question about theirproposal. First of all, Senators Dorgan and Conrad have a $500million bill up there -- it's passed the Senate and I hope andbelieve will pass the House -- which would improve and expand cropinsurance, it would compensate farmers whose crop and pasture land isflooded, it would provide emergency feed assistance to livestockproducers who are suffering from drought, and allow us to use exportenhancement funds that are left over in future years for food aid andother purposes. These things I think will be quite helpful.
Now, in addition to that, I've asked the Congress tohelp strengthen the safety net by extending the term of marketingassistance loans, by allowing flexibility for farmers to receiveadvanced AMTA payments. I asked for that last April. The Speakerand other House Republicans are saying in the last week or so theyare open to that. That would have I think a lot of impact.
And I, finally, asked for a provision that would improvecredit ability and modify the one-strike policy for farmers who havehad a debt write-down, and I've also proposed to let USDA guaranteedoperating loans be used to refinance. So if we were to do all thesethings, I think we'd strengthen the safety net.
Now, in principle, I think it's clear that the commodityloan cap is not working and it needs to be modified. The question ishow should we modify it and how are we going to pay for it within thecontext of the balanced budget. But in principle, I don't thinkthere's any question that what Senator Harkin and CongressmanGephardt and others say is right -- that the present cap is too low.
And there are some people who think this system is finethe way it works, but I don't. I think what it will do is inevitablyreduce the number of family farmers, even if it doesn't reduce theacreage being farmed. And I don't think that's a good thing forAmerica. So I would like to see a system where farmers don't failbecause of acts of God.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Mr. President, if I just may addjust a couple quick things. Number one, in our proposals in the 1996Farm Bill we did not propose capping commodity loans. We proposedkeeping a formula where those loans would continue to float. So I doagree with you that we will continue to work on this to try toprovide some responsible ways to deal with this issue so that wedon't artificially keep farm prices too low.
But, in addition, we have proposed, as you stated, thatwe allow the extension of the loans for a period of time -- at leastfor six months -- to allow farmers some flexibility in marketing, sothey don't have to just dump their grain on the marketplace when thenine-month period is over with, as is in current law.
And as you say, we have this terrible provision in the'96 Farm Bill which says if you've ever had a write-down or arestructuring of your farm loan you can never get another loan fromUncle Sam. No bank has that kind of policy. I mean, we believe inredemption in America, but the '96 Farm Bill created a situationwhere one strike and you're out forever. And I doubt if there are alot of American entrepreneurs that would be successful if they had tolive by that particular policy.
So there are a lot of things in that bill I think thatwe can try to improve, and working together I think we can get thesethings done.
Next we have Tony Purcell, with the Texas State AgNetwork out of KRLD-Dallas. And I think this is the same Tony thatused to be in Wichita, right? Is Tony there? Okay, if Tony is notthere, then we move on to Mike Hurgert of the Red River Farm Networkout of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Mike, are you there?
MR. HURGERT: Mike, are you there?
MR. HURGERT: Yes, sir. Thank you very much, Mr.Secretary, and good afternoon, Mr. President. I really don't knowwhere to start. We have cut our wheat acreage this year in the RedRiver Valley 25 percent; for the sixth straight year, we have scabdisease. Right now, we're wondering if there's a future for not onlywheat production, but agriculture. What, in long-range terms, whatcan we expect in terms of fixing this crop insurance program?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we've expanded thesize of the program, which I thought was important; it was way toosmall in '93 when I took office. We've more than doubled it, andwe've expanded farmers' choices by creating new varieties of cropinsurance. And we've introduced the concept of revenue insurance ina large majority of the grain-producing parts of the country.
But I still think there are some other things that haveto be done. I think that even though we've improved the program byoffering coverage on preventive planning since '93 and increasinglybased the coverage on farmers' individual yields, it's just notworking for most farmers. And what we're trying to do now is to lookat all the ways we can help our farmers get through tough times thatwe can pass in the Congress.
Maybe Secretary Glickman would like to talk about this,but I must say, I've been waiting for someone to ask this question,because when I was home last weekend talking to the farmers, that'sthe only thing they said. They said, this crop insurance is a joke,it doesn't really help anybody. So maybe, Secretary Glickman, that'stoo blunt for me to say that our government's crop insurance programis a joke, but maybe you should talk a little more about some of thethings we're looking at to improve it.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Well, first of all, I would saythat they have a terrible problem with scab, which is a disease thataffects wheat farmers in the Dakota-Minnesota area, and we're goingto spend $1.2 million this year and redouble our efforts to get ridof this horrendous disease which reduces yields dramatically, andthis is one of the importance of ag research. Of course, you'vesigned the ag research bill and we've had some problems gettingCongress to fully fund it, but this part of it would help.
On crop insurance, I'm reminded of the old storyPresident Truman used to say once in a while, that the only goodcredit risk that a banker will lend money to is somebody who doesn'tneed the money. And when it comes to crop insurance, if you neverhave a crop problem or a failure, then you see to do better whenmaybe once ever six or seven or eight years, you have a problem.
What's happened is, so many of our farmers have repeateddisasters -- they have a flood, then they have a freeze, then theyhave a pest, then they have other kinds of problems, and because ofthat, their yields go down and they end up finding their premiumspaid are much greater than their benefits received.
The statute requires that crop insurance be actuariallysound, which means we have to run this almost like we were a privateinsurance company, even with the amount of government subsidy that'sin the program. So you've instructed me to take this system and makeit so that an act of God will not cause somebody go to out ofbusiness, to look at this system. And one of the things in the billthat Senators Conrad and Dorgan did was -- out of this $500 millionis to provide at least part of that supplemental crop insurancebenefits which would make payments to farmers who have had lossessufficient to trigger regular crop insurance indemnity payments atthree out of the last five years. That would probably benefit 45,000to 50,000 farmers, and a lot of them would be in the Northern Plainsas well. But we clearly have a lot of work to do on this issue.
In the old days, we used to have ad hoc disasterassistance payments. But Congress did away with the crop insuranceprogram and I agree with you. This is something that's perhaps mygreatest challenge as Secretary to try to figure this one out.
THE PRESIDENT: Mike, Senator Dorgan and Senator Conradwere just here with us in the Oval Office just a few minutes ago andwe were talking about this. I think the provision in their bill isgoing to pass -- I believe it will. But I would just say to any ofour listeners there, if you have got any ideas about what we can dowith this program, this insurance program, to make it fairer and moreaffordable and more functional, or how it could be modified in someways, I would urge you to directly contact Secretary Glickman orwrite to us here at the White House. Because I am hearing fromfarmers all over the country that it's simply not working, and as DanGlickman said, it's really not like buying car insurance or homeinsurance or something like that. It's almost like buying floodinsurance in a 25-year flood plain where you just have no controlover what's going to happen. But we have a national interest inseeing that land, which is highly productive, in North Dakota beplanted.
So I think the whole concept behind the requirement thatit be "actuarially sound" misperceives the facts there. And I don'tbelieve the Congress meant to say we don't want anybody planting inNorth Dakota anymore because they've had foods and disease and pestsand everything. I don't believe that was the intent of the act ofCongress. So I think this is one where an honest error was made andwe would like to correct it and if you've got any ideas, for goodnesssakes, give them to us.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Next, we have from Murfreesboro,Tennessee, Bart Walker from WGNS. Bart, are you on?
MR. WALKER: Yes, we are. Thank you very much. Mr.President, our question deals with the farms in the future -- thefamily farms of the future. The economy is booming here inRutherford County, the population is exploding. And as a result, thefamily farms are being turned into subdivisions. At the same time,though, most students majoring in agriculture here at MiddleTennessee State University, they're going into related agriculturefields, not into farming.
What we want to ask: Are there plans for low interestloans for other programs that would enable and encourage graduatingagricultural students to get into farming?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. We actually have a program thatprovides low interest loans for first-time farmers, as well as aprogram in the Department of Agriculture that gives kind of technicalsupport and assistance for new farmers. And one of the things thatI've asked Secretary Glickman to do is to assess the adequacy of thatprogram and to look at some of the things that we're doing innon-farm communities, setting up community financial institutionsthat make extra loans and things of that kind to see if they might berelevant to first-time farmers.
As I said at the beginning of our interview here, I gotthe national officers of the FFA here with me. And these youngfarmers are the future of America. The average farmer is about 59years old in America today. And I'm very concerned about that inplaces where, like in Murfreesboro, where you're doing very welleconomically, if a farmer chooses to sell his or her land to adeveloper, and you sub-divide it, well, there's nothing I can doabout it and probably nothing you would want to do about it. Youdon't remove the right to do that if that's what the market isdictating. But I think where young people want to farm and are ableto farm, if they can get the credit they ought to be able to get theloans at affordable terms and at good repayment terms.
One of the things that we've done for college loanssince I've been here that I think might have some applicability tofirst-time farmer loans I want to look at is to structure therepayment in a way that's tied directly to income. So, for example,if a young person wants to go to college and then take a job as aschool teacher, and another would go to college and takes a job as astockbroker, and they borrow the same exact amount of money to getout of college, but the stockbroker has an income of three times theschool teacher's, under the new provisions of our college loanprogram, the school teacher can pay back the money with a ceiling onit as a percentage of his or her income. So if a young person wantsto go into some sort of public service -- to be a police officer, anurse, a school teacher, a social worker, something like that -- theycan do that.
Well, if you think about the early years of farming andhow meager the income might be, there may be something we can do tostructure the same sort of loan program for first-time farmers. Sowe're looking at a lot of other options. But we do have -- to goback to your first question -- we actually do have a program in thedepartment for first time farmers to provide for loans and fortechnical assistance to help them get started.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: And I would also add, we now havean Office of Outreach that provides technical assistance to farmersjust starting out. And, again, I would encourage people to contactus, as well.
The next question comes from Bill Ray of the AgrinetFarm Radio Network out of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Bill,are you on?
MR. RAY: Yes, I am, Mr. Secretary. Nice to be with youand welcome to the Outer Banks. Probably a good day to be farming onthe Outer Banks rather than some of the other hotter spots. It's 92degrees.
THE PRESIDENT: That's near Kitty Hawk, isn't it?
MR. RAY: That's exactly right.
THE PRESIDENT: I went there once, about 26 years ago.It's beautiful.
MR. RAY: Well, a lot of folks would like to have youback, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. RAY: Earlier, you talked and mentioned the biggestproblem that you had with the '96 Farm Bill had to do with no safetyprovisions. I remember vividly your remarks concerning that earlier.My question is, what long-range plans would you now recommend to helpfood producers in this country over the long haul?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, over the long haul, I believe thatthe provisions of the '96 bill -- let me just say what I think weought to keep. I've said what I think is wrong about it. Let me saywhat I think we ought to keep. I think it would be better if wecould avoid having the government go back to micromanaging thefarmers planning decisions. I think letting the farmers make thedecisions about what crops they're going to plant is the right thingto do. I think we ought to keep the strong conservation provisionsof the farm bill of '96.
And finally, I'd like to keep, and even strengthen therural development provisions of the farm bill. One of the thingsthat we haven't talked about is, there are a lot of people who livein agricultural communities who farm, who -- either they -- eitherthe farmer or the farmer's spouse gets a significant income fromother kinds of work. And so what I would like to see is -- I'd liketo see us do more on rural development, because the more we candiversify the economies of these small towns, the more people canafford to farm because they'll have a salaried income coming in, too,which will help them to deal with the problems of the bad years. SoI think those are the good things to keep.
I think that we should redouble our efforts inagricultural research. Secretary Glickman mentioned this. I hopethat we can get the actual dollar figure I recommended for agresearch funded in this year's budget, because we get such a hugereturn from ag research.
The second thing I'd like to say is I think if we get anadequate farm safety net in this present structure, and then we cancontinue to open farm markets and get fair treatment with the fasttrack legislation, with the new agricultural negotiations we're goingto have through the World Trade Organization, with the funding forthe International Monetary Fund, then I think the future for ourfarmers actually looks quite good.
If you look at the all the new things that are comingout of agricultural research, if you look at all the new applicationsof farm products that are being developed, and if you look at thegrowth of world population and the projected agricultural productionin other parts of the world, I would say that the next 30 years forour farmers will probably be very, very good if we can continue toinvest in research and stay ahead of the curve, and if we cancontinue to open new markets, and if we're smart enough and honestenough to recognize that we're always going to have bad years, we'realways going to have act of God, we're always going to have thingslike this go wrong -- especially when there's some evidence thatthere is a lot of change in our climate, that's warming the Earth'sclimate and leading to more disruption -- so let's put in an adequatesafety net, pay for it, deal with it, and say it's an investment inAmerica's future. I think if we just do those things, our farmersare going to quite well.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Thank you. Tony Purcell or JuliusGray from the Texas State Ag-Network, are you on board?
MR. PURCELL: Yes, Mr. Secretary. We're right here --we were here before, but you just couldn't here us.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: What's the temperature down there?
MR. PURCELL: We're pushing 100 degrees right now forthe 19th day in a row.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I'm surprised you're notshorted out. I'm glad we can hear each other.
MR. PURCELL: Yes, just barely. Mr. President, onbehalf of the Texas farmers and ranchers, boy, I'd sure like to thankyou for that disaster assistance declaration. That will help us getthrough the summer and into the fall. But you know that $1.5 billiondirect loss to Texas agriculture, that's going to mean a $5 billionhit to the general state economy. What kind of disaster relief mightbe available not only for farmers and ranchers, but to relatedagribusinesses who are suffering a loss?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Depending on the dimensions, thereare standards in the federal law for my disaster declarations, butnormally, when a disaster declaration affects an entire state inagricultural losses, then small businesses that are affected by itand communities that are affected by it are also eligible for otherkinds of assistance. And I tell you what I will do; I'll have ourpeople do some research on it and get back to you directly on it.
But let me also just say, there's one thing in this billthat's coming up that I think could be quite helpful. I've mentionedthis bill several times, the bill by Senators Conrad and Dorganthat's got $500 million more in emergency assistance. A lot of theproblems in Texas are livestock problems, even though you've lostmost of your cotton crop and had a lot of other problems.
We had a program which permitted the federal government,in times of disaster for people with their livestock, to buy upsurplus feed and give it to the livestock farmers. That wassuspended in 1996 in the farm bill until 2002. Under our provision,under this emergency provision, we'd get some of that back and wecould get some feed down there to those livestock folks that I thinkwould be very, very helpful. So that's another thing we're trying todo for the farmers. But I believe that there is some community andsmall business assistance it can flow to. If Secretary Glickman cananswer the question now, fine; if not, I'll have somebody directlycontact you later today.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Well, I would say there are severaldisaster assistance programs, both from us and FEMA, Tony, and we'llbe glad to get you those specifically. I would say that thePresident is sending me out to Texas and Oklahoma next week. I willbe, for sure, in College Station, meeting with Texas A&M folks aboutthe nature of the disaster and the extent of it, and I would say thatemergency loans that will be triggered in will help cover productionand physical losses. And we have also authorized emergency hayingand grazing of CRP -- Conservative Reserve Program -- acreage incertain counties with significant losses in hay and pastureproduction.
But once I come back and see the damage firsthand, Iwill report back to the President and try to determine what else wecan do and what the extent and nature of the loss is.
THE PRESIDENT: But if I could, to go back to yourquestion about the nonagricultural losses related to the agriculturalcrisis -- as Secretary Glickman said, some of our emergency programswere funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And wehave -- obviously, you have a governor's emergency management personthere who works with us on that.
Then, we also have some programs funded through theSmall Business Administration, some programs funded through theCommerce Department, some programs funded through the Housing andUrban Development Department. We'll just have to do an inventory.And I would urge all of the people who are listening to us throughyour network there to make sure that their mayors or members ofCongress or state officials have access to Secretary Glickman when hecomes down there and give him as complete a picture as you can ofwhat the problems are. And, obviously, we'll do our best to bring tobear whatever resources we can legally provide to help you deal withthe terrible difficulties you are in.
Today, I announced that we were going to give $100million to Texas and 10 other states just to help with utility bills,with air-conditioning, with fans, with other things, for all thesepeople who don't have adequate cooling. We've had 100 deaths nowbetween -- basically between Dallas on the West and then across
Arkansas and North Louisiana, and then to Tennessee and North Alabamaand Mississippi, and all in through that 11-state area, all the wayover to the East Coast because of the record heat. And I'm hopingthat we can help you with that as well and save some more lives.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Mr. President, I think thatexhausts certainly not the list of capable reporters out there, but Ithink that we have gotten certainly a lot of good feedback and I knowpeople have been thrilled by you being on this national agriculturalradio bridge. Do you have any closing comments you might want to sayto anybody out there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would just like to say, first ofall, that I'm very concerned about the problems that are being facedup and down and North and West and East and South in the Farm Belt.They're significant and they're different from place to place in ourcountry. We're doing our best to respond. I'm trying to listen toyour elected representatives here. I'm trying to move the systemhere as quickly as I can. I hope you will urge your representativesto vote for the Conrad-Dorgan bill to get some more emergencyassistance out there. I hope you'll support us in building a morepermanent, adequate farm safety net and in building new markets forour farm products.
But if you have anymore ideas, I would urge you to getin touch with the Secretary of Agriculture or with me. We did thisinterview in part just to reach out and show our concern to farmersand to rural America and to ask for your ideas. If you have anyideas about anything else we can do, if there's something we'reoverlooking, we want to get on it, we want to be responsive. We knowthat it's not the best of times for a lot of our farmers and we wantto be there for you. America is doing very well as a whole and wethink you should be part of that.
Thank you and God bless you all.
SECRETARY GLICKMAN: Thank you Mr. President.
What's New - July 1998
IRS Reform Act
Year 2000 Computer Problem
Health Care Issues
Patients' Bill of Rights Roundtable
Kassebaum Kennedy Law
The Boys Nation Class of 1998
Pass A Patients' Bill of Rights
New Handgun Safety Protections
Social Security Reform
Girls Nation Event
PBS Dialogue on Race
Honor Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson
Discipline and Safety in Schools
Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
Quality of Nursing Home
200th Birthday of U.S. Marine Corps Band
New Grants To Fight Crime
Medal of Honor to Robert R. Ingram
Fourth of July, 1998
New GDP Numbers
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