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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 22, 1999


|                                                                      |
|     The President Signs Agriculture Appropriations Bill Into Law     |
|                           October 22, 1999                           |
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President Clinton today signed into law the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Act for FY 2000. This legislation provides $14 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, the same as in FY 1999. It also includes $8.6 billion in emergency and disaster funds. The bill maintains the President's commitment to farmers and rural communities by funding programs for farmers and rural communities; it also maintains his commitment to our nation's children by providing over $35 billion in mandatory and discretionary funding to critical programs such as the Women's Infants and Children (WIC) program, the school lunch program, and the President's food safety initiative.

The President remains concerned that the Congress did not fix the safety net for America's farmers, did not target income assistance to those farmers in the greatest need, did not provide sufficient funds to assist those harmed by Hurricane Floyd and other recent disasters, and failed to fully fund the WIC program. He is signing the bill, however, in order to get desperately needed assistance to farmers and ranchers as quickly as possible. The bill:

PROVIDES EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE. The bill provides $8.6 billion in emergency funds to assist our nation's farmers and ranchers who are suffering through the second year in a row of low commodity prices and, for many, crop and livestock losses from severe drought and flooding. The bill doubles annual payments to farmers of major grain crops to about $11 billion. The emergency funds include $400 million to help subsidize the cost of crop insurance premiums and $325 million for livestock and dairy assistance. Additional annual payments to grain farmers should be in many farmers' hands by Thanksgiving. When the President signed the 1996 Farm Bill he stated the need for a safety net, unfortunately this bill does not address the underlying issues that exist in the wake of Freedom to Farm legislation. For example, the bulk of the assistance is not targeted to farmers who need it most, but is available to farmers, both large and small, whether they have suffered particular difficulty this year or not. While there are real problems with this bill, farmers are facing tremendous immediate needs; therefore, in signing this bill, the President once again calls on Congress to work with the Administration to fix permanently the Farm Bill so American producers can have the assurance of an adequate farm income safety net.

BOOSTS FUNDING FOR NATURAL DISASTERS SUCH AS HURRICANE FLOYD. Recognizing the devastation that droughts, floods, and other natural disasters have had on different parts of the country this year, the bill provides a down payment of $1.2 billion in assistance to farmers who suffered weather-related losses. Recognizing that this level of assistance is insufficient, the Administration has stated its support for additional assistance for crop losses and other unmet needs as the final cost of floods, the drought, and other disasters are tallied.

PROVIDES FUNDING FOR CRITICAL FOOD AND NUTRITION PROGRAMS. The bill provides $35 billion for federal nutrition programs such as the Food Stamp Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, a $227 million increase over 1999. The food stamp program, which helps nearly 19 million Americans obtain the food they need, will receive over $21 billion. Over $4 billion will be made available to serve 7.4 million participants in the WIC program, which helps feed and meet of the nutritional needs of pregnant women, babies and young children. The President is disappointed that Congress failed to fully fund his request for WIC, thereby failing to ensure that we can achieve full participation level. Finally, the bill provides $9.5 billion for child nutrition, including the provision of 7.5 million school breakfasts and 27 million school lunches daily, the school milk program, and the child and adult care food program (for children and adults in daycare).

ENHANCES FOOD SAFETY. The bill includes a significant portion of the increase that the President requested for his Food Safety Initiative, to help reduce food-borne illnesses. The bill includes an increase of $49 million (from $277 million to $326 million) from FY 1999. These funds are intended to reduce the incidence of illnesses and death caused by food borne pathogens such as e. coli and listeria. The bill also allots $1.1 billion to fund the Food and Drug Administration, a $70 million increase over 1999.

PROTECTS AND SUPPORTS RURAL COMMUNITIES. President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to tapping the potential of America's urban and rural communities. This budget will help revitalize our nation's communities so that all American's share in the economic prosperity by providing $4.3 billion in direct and guaranteed loans for rural housing, $640,000,000 in housing rental assistance for residents of rural communities, and $3.5 billion in loans and grants for rural economic development and essential community facilities, such as water treatment facilities and rural health clinics.

REQUIRES MANDATORY LIVESTOCK REPORTING. The bill establishes mandatory livestock price reporting for certain meat processors. It will increase transparency in the marketplace by requiring hog and cattle producers to submit information about the price they paid for livestock to USDA on a daily basis. By requiring the largest 10 percent of all processing facilities to report, USDA will be able to collect information about over 90 percent of all transactions. This feature will make new information available to livestock producers, and will help particularly smaller producers improve their ability to get a fair price in the marketplace.