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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 23, 1998
                         PRESIDENT CLINTON SIGNS
                    AND EDUCATION REFORM ACT OF 1998

                              June 23, 1998

Today, the President will sign into law the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998. This law will (1) restore Food Stamp benefits for 250,000 legal immigrants, including children, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and refugees and asylees; (2) provide full funding for the Federal crop insurance program; (3) authorize funding for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, which supports new and existing agricultural research, education and extension programs, and (4) extend and authorize additional funding for the Fund for Rural America. Under the President's leadership, a broad coalition of individuals and groups, including legal immigrants, farmers, agricultural groups, and religious leaders, came together to help ensure that this Nation's farmers are secure when disaster strikes; that rural communities are strengthened economically; that American agricultural research is second to none; and that legal immigrants in need receive benefits to help feed their families. The main provisions of this legislation include:

Food Stamp Benefits for Legal Immigrants. The food stamp provisions will restore benefits to 250,000 elderly, disabled, and other needy legal immigrants, including 75,000 children, who lost assistance as a result of cuts that had nothing to do with welfare reform in the 1996 welfare law. This restoration builds on the President's success last year in restoring SSI and Medicaid to 420,000 legal immigrants whose benefits were also terminated in welfare reform. This bill and last year's Balanced Budget Act go a long way toward reversing the unfair cuts in benefits to legal immigrants that the President criticized when he signed the 1996 welfare reform law, and that he committed to work with Congress to overturn.

This law will restore Food Stamp benefits to legal immigrants who lawfully resided in the United States as of August 22, 1996, and are: (1) disabled or become disabled after that date; (2) elderly; or (3) children under 18 years of age. It also restores benefits to Hmong immigrants from Laos who aided our country during the Vietnam War and extends the period during which refugees and asylees may qualify for Food Stamps while they await citizenship. This Administration will continue to work to ensure that, in this great country, those who honor laws and contribute to society can be free from hunger.

Federal Crop Insurance. This legislation will provide the authority to ensure adequate funding for the Federal crop insurance program to help strengthen the farm safety net. When the President signs this bill into law, our Nation's farmers will know that crop insurance will be fully funded for the next five years and will be there for them if disaster strikes. Without the funding provided in this legislation, it was possible that crop insurance policies would have been canceled, creating significant problems for many of our Nation's farmers, including preventing many of them from securing annual farm operating loans.

Fund for Rural America. $300 million (of which $100 million is new funding) will be provided over the next five years, for the Fund for Rural America which provides loans and grants for rural economic and community development to strengthen rural communities, and innovative applied research and extension programs to improve food safety, human nutrition, and agricultural productivity.

Agriculture Research, Extension, and Education Initiatives. This legislation would reauthorize through Fiscal Year 2002 the various USDA programs that support the Nation's land-grant colleges and universities. In addition, this legislation would fund additional research programs. Most notably, this legislation would channel $120 million a year over the next five years, for a total of $600 million, to the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, a competitive grants program that would support activities in critical emerging areas including: agricultural genomes, food safety, food technology and human nutrition, new and alternative uses of agricultural commodities and products, agricultural biotechnology, natural resource management, and farm efficiency and profitability.

Program Particpants:
Secretary Glickman
Robert Carlson, Farmer, Glen Burn, North Dakota President Clinton