Statement by the President: H.R. 4461, The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY 2001 (10/28/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                                         October 28, 2000

                        STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

     Today I am signing into law H.R. 4461, the Agriculture, Rural
Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act for FY 2001.  I commend the Congress for presenting me
an acceptable version of this bill that provides critical funding for our
Nation?s farmers and ranchers, improves the safety of our food supply, and
provides assistance to low-income families and rural communities.

     I am pleased that the Act fully funds my Food Safety Initiative at
$383 million, a $57 million, or 17 percent, increase over FY 2000.  These
funds will improve food safety for all Americans by allowing the Department
of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
increase surveillance activities and inspections of domestic and imported
food, accelerate responses to outbreaks, and perform vital research on ways
to reduce pathogens in food so that we can advance a more science-based
food inspection system.  I also commend the Congress for dropping the
objectionable language provision that would have prevented USDA from fully
implementing the Egg Safety Action Plan that I announced in December 1999.
This will now allow USDA and FDA to vigorously pursue the goal of cutting
in half the number of salmonella illnesses from eggs.

     While the Congress did not provide the full amount of my requested
increase for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants,
and Children, thereby failing to ensure that this vital program can achieve
the goal of 7.5 million participants, the program will be able to serve a
monthly average of just over 7.3 million individuals.  I am pleased that
the Act adopts my proposal to expand the vehicle allowance for the Food
Stamp program, which will assist the many working poor families for whom
owning a vehicle is the one item that makes them ineligible for food
stamps.  In addition, the Act will provide a much-needed increase in
nutrition assistance for low-income families with high housing costs, by
increasing the Food Stamp program housing allowance.  The two changes mean
that families do not have to choose among buying food, paying their housing
costs, or having a more reliable car.  However, I am disappointed the bill
did not restore food stamp eligibility for certain legal immigrants, as
proposed in my Budget.

     Loans and grants for priority rural development programs will increase
under the Act to $9.9 billion this year, a $2.7 billion increase over FY
2000.  These funds will help diversify the rural economy, improve the
quality of life in rural communities, and bring more rural areas across the
"economic divide" that separates too many parts of the country from the
historic economic expansion underway.  I am especially pleased that the Act
includes several of my proposals to address geographic areas of rural
America that have long struggled with persistent poverty, including $34
million targeted to Indian reservations for health clinics, child care
centers, water systems, and job opportunities; and $10 million for the
Mississippi Delta Region to create better job opportunities and strengthen
local financial intermediaries.  The Act will also provide over $100
million in loans and grants to help close the "digital divide" by financing
local Internet service and broadband transmission in rural areas.




     The Act increases USDA?s conservation technical assistance to farmers
and ranchers by over $50 million from the FY 2000 level.  Part of these
funds will be used for a one-third increase in technical assistance to
producers who are improving their animal waste management systems, as part
of my Clean Water Action Plan.  I am disappointed, however, that the Act
cuts financial assistance for these and other conservation projects through
the Environmental Quality Incentives program, and provides none of the
funds I requested for the Farmland Protection Program that preserves
farmland and helps communities manage urban sprawl.  Also, while it is
certainly helpful that the Act increases the
Wetlands Reserve Program by 100,000 acres, it is far short of reaching the
250,000 acres per year I proposed for this program.  I am hopeful that the
next Congress and the next Farm Bill will recognize that farmers were the
first environmentalists and that Federal farm programs should be structured
and funded to improve the environment while boosting farm income.

     I am also pleased that the Act provides vital payments to farmers and
ranchers who have suffered losses from natural disasters.  However, the
more than $4 billion in emergency funds in this Act, combined with more
than $7 billion in farm assistance for the current crop year that was
enacted this summer, represents the third year in a row the Congress has
had to supplement farm income through major emergency appropriations, due
to the failure of the 1996 Farm Bill.  I am hopeful that the reforms
enacted this year to the crop insurance program will mitigate the need for
future ad hoc crop loss legislation.  I continue to believe that USDA?s
farm income assistance program must be overhauled to target funds to family
farmers based on their actual income losses on crops they are growing now,
not paid out inordinately to corporate farms based on what they grew years
ago.  My Administration is reviewing the emergency funding provisions in
this Act, and these funds will be released as needs dictate.

     I am concerned that the bill contains an ineffective provision
regarding importation of FDA-approved prescription drugs that represents
little more than a false promise to the American public.  While I am
supportive of efforts to allow American consumers to gain access to
lower-cost prescription drugs, the language included in the Act contains
several loopholes that effectively render the provision meaningless.  Among
other serious flaws, drug manufacturers can deny importers access to
FDA-approved labeling that is required for reimportation, and therefore,
drug companies are likely to block
reimportation of their medications.  In addition, because this reimport
authority expires after 5 years, private and public sector interest in
investing in this system will be limited.  Not only does this provision
fail to provide discounts, it also does not address the larger issue of the
lack of prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.

     I am also concerned that language in this Act restricts Presidential
ability to initiate certain new agricultural and medical trade sanctions
and maintain old ones, as congressional approval of such sanctions will now
be required.  This could disrupt the ability of the President to conduct
foreign policy, and could provide potential targets of U.S. actions with
time to take countermeasures.  The bill permits exports of U.S. farm and
medical products to Cuba, but constrains these trade opportunities by
barring the U.S. Government, and severely limiting U.S. private banks, from
providing financing assistance to Cuba.  In addition, the legislation
purports to restrict the President?s ability to authorize certain
travel-related activities in Cuba.  We are concerned that this provision
be read to impose overly rigid constraints on our ability to



conduct foreign policy and respond to immediate humanitarian and
operational concerns including, inter alia, protecting American lives,
ensuring upkeep of American diplomatic installations, and assisting in both
Federal and State prosecutions in the United States in which travel to Cuba
may be required.  We do not think that the Congress intended to curtail
such activities by this legislation.  Accordingly, my Administration will
interpret this provision, to the extent possible, as not infringing upon
such activities.

     Also, I note that this bill will provide select U.S. industries with a
subsidy above and beyond the protection level needed to counteract foreign
subsidies, while providing no comparable subsidy to other U.S. industries
or to U.S. consumers,
who are forced to pay higher prices on industrial inputs or consumer goods
as a result of the anti-dumping and countervailing  duties.  I call on the
Congress to override this provision, or amend it to be acceptable, before
they adjourn.

     I am also concerned that this bill prohibits the Office of the Under
Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment from
supervising, managing, or directing the Forest Service and the Natural
Resources Conservation Service.  Policy disputes between the Congress and
the Administration should not degenerate into personal attacks.  Under
Secretary Jim Lyons and his office are essential to numerous national
environmental, forestry, and conservation initiatives, and have provided
strong leadership in this regard throughout my Administration.

     There are a number of provisions in the Act that may raise
Constitutional issues.  These provisions will be implemented in a manner
that is consistent with the Constitution:

?    Section 719 of the Act specifies that funds may not be used to provide
to any non-Department of Agriculture employee questions or responses to
questions resulting from the appropriations hearing process.  To the extent
that this provision would interfere with my duty to "take Care that the
Laws be faithfully executed," or impede my ability to act as the chief
executive, it would violate the Constitution, and I will treat it as

?    Section 730 of the Act purports to constrain my ability to make a
particular type of budget recommendation to the Congress.  This provision
would interfere with my constitutional duty under the Recommendation
Clause, and I will treat it as advisory.

?    Finally, there are provisions in the Act that purport to condition my
authority or that of certain officers to use funds appropriated by the Act
on the approval of congressional committees.  My Administration will
     such provisions to require notification only, since any other
     interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS v.

     I urge the Congress to approve the remaining FY 2001 spending bills
expeditiously, and send them to me in an acceptable form.

                              WILLIAM J. CLINTON

    October 28, 2000.

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