THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
|June 23, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
At The Signing Of Agricultural Research, Extension and
Education Reform Act of 1998
The Rose Garden
11:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you Mr.Carlson for your very eloquent and enlightening statement and for the workyou do every day as a farmer, both with your crops and with the bison.When Dan Glickman said you had bison I saw a lot of people's eyebrows goup. We've come a long way since Teddy Roosevelt saved the buffalo with thenational park. We went from millions of head in the West and the highplains down to only 20 known head of buffalo when Teddy Roosevelt actuallyestablished that national preserve. Now we've got enough that we knowthey'll be there, with folks like you farming and we appreciate that.
Thank you, Secretary Glickman, for the truly outstanding job you do asSecretary of Agriculture. I would like to thank Senators Lugar and Harkinand Congressmen Smith and Stenholm. And I would also like to thankCongressman Becerra, the head of the Hispanic Caucus for the work he didand all the other members of Congress who are here.
We are joined by a number of local officials who had great interest inthis legislation including, but I'm sure not limited to, L.A. countysupervisor Gloria Molina, Chicago City Treasurer Miriam Santos, VirginiaState Delegate Karen Darner. I would also like to thank all therepresentatives of our country's farmers and ranchers who are here, thereligious leaders, our immigrant and anti-hunger advocates.
This is a very good day for me personally for two reasons. First ofall, you heard Secretary Glickman give you the official population of thetown in which I was born, it's about 50 percent larger then it was when Iwas born there; but all my mother's people came from a little town calledBodcaw, which still has only 50 people in it. And I have on my deskupstairs a picture of my grandfather with his family in 1907. Just aboutall of them were farmers and when they were forced to leave the land andcome into the large city of Hope most of them kept little plots of land outin the country for decades where they kept there hand in and they continuedto grow their crops and harvest them even when they could no longerthemselves make a living on the land.
And when I was a boy it was part of the ritual of every summer that Iwould go out and help them work the land when I wasn't in school. And inthe fall help them to bring in everything from vegetables to watermelon. Idon't know if watermelon is a fruit or vegetable. I think it's somethingin between.
Also, when I was governor I governed a state which had a lot of peoplewho didn't have enough to eat. And I saw this remarkable coalition ofpeople following the moral tradition of virtually every religion whichconsistently admonishes us to take care of the poor and the hungry. Sothis is a remarkable day and something that all of you can be proud of.And those of you who worked on this bill know that you can be especiallyproud of it because you had some very powerful opponents of what weattempted to do.
We are carrying on here a long and proud tradition of bipartisancommitment; a coalition that was first forged by Hubert Humphrey, RobertDole and George McGovern a generation ago. By standing together in thattradition we have ensured that America keeps its contract with our farmersand ranchers and with people in need.
We all know that our nation's core values in many ways have theirdeepest roots in rural America, in its commitment to community and mutualresponsibility, to strong families and individual initiative. Direct,trusting interaction among neighbors so hard to find in some places in ourcountry and throughout the world, still have very strong roots in ruraltowns. Every American has a stake, therefore, in making sure that ruralAmerica stays strong into the 21st Century, not only because they feed usbut because in many ways they feed our spirit and help us to forge ourcharacter as a nation.
This Bill, as has already been said, does a lot of very good thingsfor America. First, it rights a wrong. When I signed the Welfare ReformBill in 1996 I said the cuts in nutritional programs were too deep and hadnothing whatever to do with welfare reform. Last year we restored Medicaidand SSI benefits to 420,000 legal immigrants. Today we reinstate foodstamp benefits to 250,000 legal immigrants, including seniors, persons withdisabilities and 75,000 children. In addition, the Hmong immigrants fromLaos who heroically fought for our nation during the Vietnam war will againreceive their full food benefits, overdue, high time and I appreciate thefact that they were included in this Bill.
None of these benefit cuts had the first thing to do with welfarereform. Reinstating them is the right thing to do and will have nothing todo with the success we've enjoyed which has brought welfare rates inAmerica down to a 29 year low now.
Beyond that, this Bill extends opportunity for all Americans,especially for farmers and ranchers. Today I think it's worth notingagain, as I prepare to leave for China, American agriculture is one of ourmost powerful export engines. Products from one of every three acresplanted in America are sold abroad. As this strong growth continues in thenew century our farmers and ranchers will need to feed millions andmillions of more people around the world. They will need to do their workin a more sustainable way to protect our water and fragile soil. They willneed to continue improving food safety by investing in cutting-edgeagricultural research, funding rural development and bolstering cropinsurance. This Bill will help our farmers meet the needs of tomorrow'sworld.
We are channeling an additional $120 million a year, over the nextfive years to vital investments in food and agriculture genome research,food safety and technology, human nutrition and agricultural biotechnology.We're allocating $60 million a year over the next five years to give grantsand loans to underserved rural communities where people must diversifytheir economy on an available, attainable scale in order to preserve thefabric of life there.
These grants will ensure, I hope and believe, that more and more ofour rural communities can finally share in this remarkable nationaleconomic prosperity that we are enjoying. We are also providing ourfarmers with peace of mind because crop insurance will be there for themshould disaster strike. In certain parts of the country farmers arehurting now.
And it is clear, that in addition, we need to strengthen the farmsafety net for the future. The legislation that we signed today is a verygood start but there are some more things I believe we should do.
In addition to strengthening the safety net for farmers we mustprotect our exports by passing the legislation sponsored by Senators Murrayand Roberts, and Representative Pomeroy to allow our farmers to continue toexport wheat to Pakistan and India. It was never intended, I don'tbelieve, to use food as a weapon in foreign policy even in this extremecircumstance. And I strongly support that legislation and believe we havebig bipartisan support for doing something about it immediately. And it'simportant that it be done immediately because of the necessity of gettingthose contracts out and making sure the shipments are there if they'regoing to be there. I feel that we will be successful.
Congress must also give the IMF the resources it needs to help tostabilize the economies of Asia, in part because they are huge markets forUnited States farm products. Finally, we must protect the many advanceswe're making in the Bill I'm just about to sign. Believe it or not, theBill I'm just about to sign already has some provisions which are injeopardy.
There are some in Congress who are working to undue the progressembodied in this Bill. The Appropriations Committees have taken steps tocut the funding next year for the research and rural development programs Ijust mentioned, limit our food safety efforts and cut as many as 100,000women and children from the WIC program at a time when our economy is doingwell and we can clearly afford to continue these things. This Bill is theexample of how we should work together.
Let me just mention one other issue before I sign the Bill -- anexample of how the country does well when we put progress ahead ofpartisanship. In the bipartisan balanced budget agreement I was proud tosign into law last year we gave Medicare patients new choices, enabled themto enroll in private health plans and extended the life of the MedicareTrust Fund for a decade. Building on that new bipartisan law I instructedour Administration to implement a Patient's Bill of Rights for theone-third of Americans who receive Federal health care benefits.
Beginning this week we are putting those protections into effect.From now on, for example, Medicare patients will have the right to see aspecialist in a broad range of areas. Women will have a right to seewomen's health specialists. Medicare patients will have a right to privacyfor their medical records.
This marks the most significant change in Medicare in three decades.It shows what we can do when we put progress over partisanship. That's whyI also strongly support the bipartisan effort being launched today in theHouse of Representatives by Congressmen Dingle and Ganske to extend thePatient's Bill of Rights to all Americans.
Today we mark another milestone in this kind of bipartisancooperation. We've come along way from the days when Thomas Jeffersonthought every American should be a farmer, even the farmers are glad that'snot true. But what he said then is still true in many ways: "Thecultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens, the most vigorous,the most independent, the most virtuous, they are tied to their country andwedded to its liberty and interest by the most lasting bonds."
Today we strengthened those bonds. And we strengthened those bonds tothose whose hold on the American dream is still fragile. In so doing we doour part to do what Mr. Jefferson wanted us to do, to always be about thebusiness of forming a more perfect Union.
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I would like to ask all the members of Congress tocome up here while we sign the Bill. Come on up.
(Signing of the Bill.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you.
Q (Inaudible) VX (inaudible) despite reports by U.N. weaponsinspectors that they found fragments on SCUD missiles. What do you thinkthis says about Iraq, and what should you do?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: You asked me about the report about the U.N.weapons inspectors, that there were traces of VX found in a missile head?
Q Well, it proves that the United -- let me just say. It provesthat the United States has been accurate and correct in our insistence allalong that we support the U.N. inspections in Iraq. And it proves that ourdecision to oppose relaxing the sanctions until all the U.N. resolutionshave been complied with is an accurate one.
Mr. Butler is doing his job and we need to wait until we hear thereport. There is a news report to this effect, but it just proves that --you know, our job in the world is to try to reduce the danger that ourpeople and others in the world face from nuclear, chemical and biologicalweapons. And sometimes we have to do it even when our friends andneighbors don't think it is as important as we do. It is very important.
If this report is true, it will just show that our insistence overthese last many years on the U.N. inspection system is the right thing todo for the safety of America and the safety of the rest of the world. Andwe'll stay with the position we've always had. Let the inspections goforward and don't lift the sanctions until the resolutions are compliedwith.
Q Sir, China has refused visas to three Radio Free Asiajournalists. What would you plan to do about that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I am aware of the Chinese refusal. I think itis a highly objectionable decision. We will protest it. We hope they'llreconsider it. And it is actually rather ironic because this decision todeny the visa to the Radio Free Asia journalists is depriving China of thecredit that it otherwise would have gotten for giving more visas to a morediverse group of journalists and allowing more different kinds of people inthere than they've ever done before.
And the fact that they denied the visa for the Radio Free Asia peoplewill actually undercut the credit which otherwise would have come their waybecause of that.
Thank you, very much.