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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 22, 1999
                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                            IN RADIO ACTUALITY

                                Oval Office

11:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Today, I am signing into law the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. This legislation provides critical funding for the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration programs, including basic farm support programs, WIC, food safety efforts and other measures to protect and support our rural communities.

It also provides emergency funds to assist our nation's farmers and ranchers who are suffering the second year in a row of plummeting crop prices and, for many, record livestock losses from severe drought and flooding.

Let me say that I am disappointed that Congress didn't come through with more assistance for farmers and ranchers who suffered this year. This summer's drought and Hurricane Floyd and other natural disasters have inflicted literally billions of dollars in agricultural damage, and we need to do more to help those farmers who have incurred these losses through no fault of their own.

Congress also has not responded effectively to the crisis facing many farms because of the sustained low prices of most commodities. This is the second year in a row that substantial federal assistance has been needed above and beyond our regular farm programs.

Now, while these additional funds have been absolutely critical, the very fact that we've needed them points out the underlying flaws in the 1996 Farm Bill. For all its positive features, that bill simply did not do enough to help our farmers and ranchers cope in crisis. It doesn't give the USDA the tools it needs to help farmers and ranchers thrive in the short and long terms. It doesn't direct payments to where they're most needed. And it's providing payments to those who aren't even farming anymore.

The bottom line is this: we need to revise, revamp and improve the 1996 Farm Bill. It is not providing adequate support that our farmers need to prosper. So, once again, I urge Congress to work to fix the Farm Bill permanently, so American farmers can have an adequate safety net -- just as the Vice President and I have worked hard to reinvent government and give government more impact and more effectiveness, even though we have the smallest federal government since 1962. We must take those kinds of steps, the necessary steps to rewrite this flawed farm legislation. The men and women who work every day to give us the world's most affordable and abundant food supply deserve nothing less.

So this is not a perfect piece of legislation; but I am signing it because our farmers are facing a true emergency and they can't wait. Their livelihoods -- in some cases, their very survival -- depend upon getting this bill signed and assistance delivered now.

Franklin Roosevelt once said that our farmers are the source from which the reservoirs of our nation's strength are constantly renewed. We must strengthen and support our farms and farm families, just as they have sustained us throughout our history and will into the future.

Thank you.

END 11:50 A.M. EDT