THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I have signed into law H.R. 2559, the "Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000," which authorizes permanent reforms to the crop insurance program, provides temporary farm income assistance in FY 2000, and provides funding and authorities for other agricultural and nutrition programs for FY 2001.
I support the reform of the crop insurance program that is included in this bill, because it is generally consistent with principles my Administration has advocated over the last 2 years. I have heard many farmers say that the crop insurance program was simply not a good value for them, providing too little coverage for too much money. My FY 2001 budget proposal and this bill directly address that problem by making higher insurance coverage more affordable, which should also mitigate the need for ad hoc crop loss disaster assistance such as we have seen for the last 3 years. The reforms in this bill will put risk management where it belongs: in the hands of producers. The bill will also expand coverage to more crops and provide incentives for new insurance product development, which will extend risk management to more producers and foster innovation in the risk management marketplace.
The bill includes a number of other provisions that I also support. The bill expands research authorities and funding for biomass and bioproducts, including next-generation ethanol, which will benefit producers by increasing the demand for agricultural products, and will diversify rural economies while cleaning our air and fighting global warming. The bill also provides income assistance to producers of a number of different crops, such as fruit and vegetable growers, and producers whose crop and pasture land has been flooded. In addition, the bill includes important reforms I requested to the Child and Adult Care Food Program and allows the use of school lunch application data to identify more children eligible for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
However, I am signing H.R. 2559 with reservations because its income assistance component is not targeted, is counter-cyclical, and does not require recipients to enroll in crop insurance. If there was any doubt that the 1996 Farm Bill failed to provide an adequate farm safety net, it should be dispelled by this bill that provides significant supplemental farm income assistance for the third year in a row.
As I said when I signed the 1996 bill, the fixed Agricultural Marketing Transition Act (AMTA) payments simply do not adjust to changes in crop prices or revenues, and the prolonged financial stress in the farm sector has required the Congress to repeatedly step in on an ad hoc basis to supplement farm bill assistance. To respond to the needs of producers suffering from continuing low crop prices and inadequate farm bill assistance, and to provide a sensible approach for the reauthorization of the farm bill in 2002, I proposed counter-cyclical farm income assistance in my FY 2001 Budget, which would provide higher payments on those crops with the most depressed prices and revenues. I am disappointed that the Congress did not adopt this proposal, and instead chose again simply to double the AMTA payments without regard to the hard-ships facing individual producers this year. Payments in this bill will be based on what producers grew prior to 1996, not what they are growing now, and some payment recipients may not even be growing covered crops anymore, having switched to other commodities or livestock production. We need to move beyond this kind of untargeted, patchwork fix to secure a stronger, more reliable farm safety net that provides dependable assistance to family farmers based on their current farm income.
Another crucial component of my farm safety net proposal is to significantly increase funds for conservation programs, such as the Conservation and Wetlands Reserve Programs, and a new Conservation Security Program. These programs can boost farm income to a wide range of producers, while providing environmental benefits for all Americans. I am disappointed that virtually no funds were included for these programs, and I will continue to seek substantially increased funding for them this year. Additionally, we want to work with the Congress to prevent an unintended sequester.
This bill's farm income assistance will help many producers get through what is shaping up to be another tough year, and the crop insurance reforms should enhance producers' ability to survive natural disasters for years to come. But I would hope that the experience of the last 3 years has taught those who shape farm policy on Capitol Hill -- as farm families across the country have learned first-hand the hard way -- that we need to build a stronger, better farm safety net on which American producers, their families, and communities can depend.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, June 20, 2000.
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