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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 15, 1998

President Clinton: Working to Help America's Farmers

September 15, 1998

Five and A Half Years of Progress, but Challenges Remain. For five and a half years, President Clinton has worked to expand opportunity for rural Americans and farm families. He has fought for disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers who have lost out during the recent crisis, and worked to expand U.S. agricultural exports, to improve our school lunch programs by buying surplus commodities, and to diversify the sources of enterprise and income in rural America. But rural America still faces challenges. The economic crisis in Asia has weakened some of our best customers for farm products; strong crop production has lowered prices, and farmers face floods, fires, drought and crop disease. That's why the President is taking action to address the crisis facing many of our farmers today.


Urging Congress to Help Farmers and Ranchers in Need through Emergency Funding. The President has been pressing Congress to enact emergency assistance proposed by Senators Conrad and Dorgan to help thousands of farmers affected by this crisis. And the President recently announced his support for Senators Harkin and Daschle's proposal to lift the cap on marketing loan rates for one year. In light of yesterday's vote in the Senate, we must find other ways to provide emergency assistance to farmers facing dire circumstances, so they have the resources now to plan next Spring's crops.

Implementing the Wheat Purchase Initiative. In July, President Clinton directed the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase 80 million bushels of wheat, which will lift prices for all wheat. The President launched this new initiative to press the struggle against world hunger, donating U.S. wheat to countries where the need is greatest.

Speeding Up Payments to Farmers. Last month, the President signed a law to speed up farm program payments to help farmers who need the money now.

Fighting for Full Funding of the IMF to Shore Up America's Customers Around the World. We must keep the market for our products growing by giving the International Monetary Fund the resources it needs to stabilize Asian economies that are critical customers for America's farmers.

Exempting Food Exports from U.S. Sanctions Policy. The President believes that commercial exports of food and other basic human necessities should be excluded from economic sanctions as a matter of general principle -- except under compelling circumstances. The President already signed into law an exemption to allow our farmers to continue selling wheat to Pakistan. But Congress should do more to give us the flexibility we need to protect our domestic interests, without harming our foreign interests.

Aggressively Opening Markets Around the World. The Clinton Administration has a comprehensive approach to opening agricultural markets in our key export markets -- bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally. Agricultural exports to Mexico have surged over the last year. In Latin America, we have established a negotiating group focused on agricultural trade in the Free Trade Area of the Americas process, and in the Asia-Pacific region, we have kicked off discussions aimed at lowering barriers to specific agricultural products. And the President and British Prime Minister Blair announced a new initiative with the European Union to address regulatory barriers to bio-engineered agricultural exports.

Enforcing Our Trade Agreements. We have been aggressive in using every tool at our disposal to ensure that our trading partners honor agreements we have made. The United States is bringing and winning more cases in the WTO than any other country, and over one third of the cases we have initiated involve agriculture.

Promoting Farm Exports. The Clinton Administration has nearly doubled USDA export financing in the past year to nearly $6 billion. We have also proposed legislation to ensure the flexibility to move Export Enhancement Program (EEP) balances left at the end of the year into other programs to fund additional sales of U.S. crops. And the President wants legislation that would allow us to carry over unused balances into subsequent years to expand U.S. exports. Congress should move quickly to approve these initiatives.

Increasing Access to Capital in Rural America. The Clinton Administration has invested more than $175 million in the nation's three rural empowerment zones and 33 rural enterprise communities (EZ/ECs) since 1995, creating or saving over 7,000 jobs. And more than 700,000 rural citizens now receive additional services in the EZ/EC's as a result of USDA loans, grants, and programs. The Administration wants to build on this effort to bring economic development to distressed rural areas by providing $40 million in mandatory grants to each of the five new rural EZ's over the next 10 years.

Enhancing the Fund for Rural America. The Fund provides additional resources for rural development and innovative agricultural research that are vital to improving the quality of life in rural America and increasing the productivity of U.S. farmers. The Administration proposed creating the Fund in 1996 to boost the overall Federal investment in these activities. Unfortunately, Congress is not giving a penny to the Fund for Rural America this year. We will continue to fight for full funding -- $300 million over the next five years.

Modernizing Agricultural Research. The President recently signed into law the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998, which puts funding for crop insurance on a sure footing for the future, and boosts investment on agricultural research and rural development.

Improving Crop Insurance. The President has instructed Secretary Glickman to redouble his efforts to augment the current crop insurance program to more adequately meet farmers' needs to protect against farm income losses. Federal crop insurance represents a fundamental fabric of the farm safety net, yet circumstances in some regions reveal the shortcomings of the current program.