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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 16, 1996


The President today sent fiscal year 1997 budget amendments to the Congress that would provide additional funds for firefighting activities of the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service and USDA programs newly authorized in the 1996 Farm Bill.

The President is requesting contingent emergency funding of $110 million for wildland firefighting costs of the Forest Service. The 1996 fire season is off to an early start, with recent major wildfires and continuing dry conditions in the Southwest. Since the 1996 fire season extends through the fall into FY 1997, FY 1997 appropriations for firefighting likely will be absorbed before the 1997 fire season begins next calendar year.

The contingency funds will provide assurance that funds will be available for the 1997 fire season. The $115 million requested, or any portion thereof, would be available only upon the President transmitting a subsequent request to the Congress designating the specific amount requested as an emergency requirement.

The remaining requests are largely due to the recently enacted 1996 Farm Bill. Budget amendments that are proposed would reduce the discretionary requests contained in the FY 1997 Budget for several programs because the Farm Bill provided direct funding for them. In addition, the Farm Bill provides a number of authorities for new programs that did not exist when the FY 1997 Budget was prepared.

For example, $10 million is now requested to provide grants to low-income rural communities to construct vital facilities such as health clinics and fire stations, $5 million is requested to increase funding for a private grazing lands conservation initiative, and $500,000 is requested to establish the new National Natural Resources Conservation Service Foundation, which will promote partnerships between the Federal Government, States, and private interests to improve conservation of natural resources.