THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am pleased to sign into law S. 1150, the "Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998." This bill is an example of the Federal Government at its best: the Congress and the Administration working together on a bipartisan basis, bringing together a broad coalition of individuals and groups to address the important needs of our citizens in a fiscally responsible manner. I want to thank Senators Lugar and Harkin and Representatives Smith and Stenholm, whose efforts to forge this compromise were tireless, as well as all the other Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who voted for S. 1150. Their support reflects the strong consensus in this country for the reforms and funding contained in this bill.
S. 1150 and last year's Balanced Budget Act go a long way toward fulfilling the commitment, which I made when I signed the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, to reverse the unfair treatment of legal immigrants included in that legislation, which had nothing to do with welfare reform. The Food Stamp provisions of S. 1150 restore benefits to 250,000 elderly, disabled, and other needy legal immigrants, including 75,000 children who lost assistance under the 1996 Act. The Food Stamp provisions in S. 1150 build on our success last year in restoring Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid benefits to 420,000 legal immigrants who lost such assistance under the 1996 Act. S. 1150 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. We will continue to work to ensure that those who honor our laws and contribute to our society can be free from hunger.
Similarly, when I signed the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (1996 Farm Act) that radically changed the decades-old Federal programs to balance crop supply and demand, I made a commitment to work with the Congress to strengthen the farm safety net. With the bill I am signing today, our Nation's farmers know that crop insurance will be there for them if disaster strikes, with the program fully funded for the next 5 years.
To improve farming productivity and efficiency, we must increase our investment in agricultural research. In the 1996 Farm Act deliberations, the Congress believed the agricultural research title to be so important that work on it was postponed so it could receive the time and consideration that it deserved. The research provisions in S. 1150 were worth waiting for, and I commend the Congress for its work.
The Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems in S. 1150 will channel an additional $120 million a year over the next 5 years to vital investments in food and agriculture genome research, food safety and technology, human nutrition, and agricultural biotechnology. These investments will lead to advances in new production systems for crops and livestock. This will help farmers and agricultural processors produce an abundant supply of safe food, with less impact on the environment, and meet the challenge of new, more virulent pest and disease outbreaks. In addition, the bill reforms the working arrangements between the Secretary of Agriculture and the universities that carry out important agricultural research. These changes will encourage and enable universitas to take on larger-scale challenges and enhance their integration of research, education, and extension functions while improving the accountability and management of their programs.
Rural communities cannot rely on agriculture alone to sustain their economy and quality of life. That is why, throughout my Administration, I have strongly supported increasing the investments in rural development, and pushed to find innovative solutions to unique local needs. We worked hard with the Congress in the 1996 Farm Act to create the Fund for Rural America, which provided funds for rural development and innovative agricultural research. I am pleased that S. 1150 provides $300 million for the Fund and extends its funding through FY 2003.
While signing S. 1150, I am concerned that some in the Congress are already threatening to block significant portions of its funds from being spent in FY 1999. Appropriation actions in the House and Senate would deny any funds from being used for the Fund for Rural America, and the House bill would also block any research funding in this bill from going forward next year. I strongly object to such ill-advised cuts in these vital programs. I call on the Congress to provide the needed funds for these important activities.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, June 23, 1998.
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