HELPING AMERICA'S FARMERS DURING A DIFFICULT TIME
Whenever disaster strikes, Americans join together as one community to help see their neighbors through. That is what we will do throughout rural America, to save the farmers who are losing their homes and whose crops are dying in the field. At this moment of broad prosperity for our nation, we can -- and must -- help our rural neighbors through this current crisis and strengthen rural communities for the 21st Century.
-- President Bill Clinton
Helping Farmers During A Difficult Time. Today, President Clinton signs into law S. 2344, which will allow farmers to receive their regular support payments earlier than usual. This measure is necessary because America's farmers have been hit hard by lower crop prices, a string of natural emergencies, and financial stress on the agriculture market. By speeding up these payments, this law will help many farm families, particularly those facing financial difficulty through no fault of their own. This new legislation builds on steps the President has taken to help farmers during this difficult year. Earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture purchased 535,000 tons of wheat for donation overseas. This purchase is the first step in the President's plan to purchase more than 80 million bushels of wheat to help strengthen our crop prices and meet our humanitarian needs overseas.
We Must Do More To Help farmers. President Clinton has called on Congress to move quickly to provide emergency assistance for the farmers and ranchers who have been most directly affected by natural disasters and low prices. That legislation would help farmers by:
The President supports the amendment proposed by Senators Dorgan and Conrad to provide at least $500 million of this emergency funding --a provision that has passed the Senate, and received the support of Speaker Gingrich. President Clinton wants Congress to send him this legislation as soon as possible so hard-pressed farmers can get the relief they need.
The President Wants To Strengthen The Farm Safety Net. President Clinton has challenged Congress to improve the farm safety net in a number of very specific ways. The President's proposals would extend the term of marketing assistance loans; allow more flexibility in planting; make credit more readily available and modify the "one strike" policy for farmers who have had a debt write-down; use leftover EEP funds in future years for food aid and other purposes; let farmers use USDA guaranteed operating loans to refinance; and expand and improve crop insurance.
Five and A Half Years Of Progress, But Challenges Remain. For five and a half years, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have worked to expand opportunity for rural Americans and farm families. The Administration has provided critical disaster assistance to rural homeowners, farm owners, and business owners, as well as to ranchers who have lost livestock, fought to expand U.S. agricultural exports, improved our school lunch programs by buying surplus commodities, and worked to diversify the sources of enterprise and income in rural America. In an effort to continue this work, the President has announced a four-point plan that will help strengthen rural America for the 21st Century by: (1) expanding the rural economy through exports and development; (2) improving the farm income safety net; (3) strengthening rural infrastructure; and (4) promoting health, welfare, and a clean environment.
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