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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release August 6, 1996

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Today I have signed into law H.R. 3603, the "Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1997."

For the upcoming fiscal year, the Act provides $13.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for important nutrition, food safety, and rural development programs, and $40.3 billion for mandatory programs such as the Food Stamp program, the Child Nutrition program and the Commodity Credit Corporation. In addition, the Act provides urgently needed supplemental funds for the current fiscal year in two vital areas.

First, the Act provides $12 million in FY 1996 funds to support and enhance the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to investigate the appalling incidents of church burning that have disturbed and angered Americans across the Nation. As I said when I spoke to this issue in Greeleyville, South Carolina in June, we will do everything we can to bring those responsible for these acts to justice. And so I appreciate the timely action by the Congress in providing this funding in the first available appropriations bill.

Second, the Act includes $32 million in FY 1996 emergency funds for farmers who have been hurt by natural disasters, particularly those in the Southwest suffering from the prolonged drought and those in the Southeast affected by Hurricane Bertha. These funds will support $100 million in low-interest direct loans. I hereby designate all of these funds as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(D)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, as amended.

For fiscal year 1997, I am particularly pleased that the Act includes my request for increased funds for the Food Safety Inspection Service. On July 6, I announced a sweeping reform of the meat and poultry inspection system, which has not been upgraded in 90 years. This investment will revolutionize the way we ensure the safety of American meat and poultry.

The Act also provides significant increases in rural development programs, to improve the quality of life in rural America and to help diversify the rural economy. In addition, the Act includes much of my proposal to create a Rural Development Performance Partnership, which will provide greater flexibility to tailor Federal assistance to local needs, reflecting my Administration's belief that there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to the challenges facing rural areas.

I am concerned, however, that the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is funded at $150 million below my request. I am disappointed that the Congress failed to provide my requested increase for the WIC program in order to reach a full participation level of 7.5 million women, infants, and children.

Finally, I note that $69.1 million of valuable agricultural research funding has been earmarked for unrequested buildings and facilities. In the Statement of Managers accompanying the Bill, the conferees have, however, expressed their intent to make FY 1997 the last year in which they earmark research funds for such purposes. It is my hope and expectation that the Congress will hold to that intent.

On balance, this is a good bill that will provide funding for important nutrition, food safety, and rural development needs as well as providing a strong boost for two immediate priorities.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON

THE WHITE HOUSE,

August 6, 1996.

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