Public Papers

Remarks on Signing the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990


Thank you very much. Thank you all. Well, thank you all very much. Delighted to have you here at the White House. Let me first thank Secretary Yeutter for all his hard work, and then the front row of heavy hitters here from the United States Congress: Chairman Leahy and, of course, the minority leader, Senator Dole; Senator Cochran; Senator Lugar; Senator Bond -- all extremely interested, all terribly important to this legislation. I understand, Clayt, that there's quite a few people from the Department here, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them.

You know, there's no question here or anyplace else how crucial a strong agricultural sector is to the future of this country. From the fields to the supermarkets, agriculture creates 1 of every 7 jobs in this country; 8 out of 10 of them off the farm, spreading the seeds of economic growth across the entire country.

America grew to greatness on the strength of own agriculture. For that, I know that all of us will always be proud and thankful to America's farmers. Our farmers are the best. Period! They outproduce every other nation in the world by far, and even outproduce some continents. They're world champion providers.

We're in the Uruguay round negotiations, making every effort to achieve substantial agricultural reform, which will include major reductions in trade-distorting barriers. We want to bring home a fair deal for American farmers, and I can assure you there will not be a signature on one that is not fair.

Here at home, the legislation I'm about to sign will help our farmers continue to be leaders in global agricultural trade. We've been working closely with the leadership in the Congress to get a farm bill that keeps our farmers competitive and keeps our rural areas environmentally sound. And I believe, after talking to some of the Members here, that this bill meets that standard. It's a market-oriented bill that lets farmers make more of their own production decisions based on the market rather than on government support prices. It also encourages the research that is so crucial to helping our farmers maintain their global lead in agriculture.

The 1985 farm bill was a success. Farm income has been at record-high levels for the last 3 years. This bill, and the reconciliation bill that accompanied it, continue and expand the market orientation of that law. Farmers will have greater flexibility to enhance their income by having the choice to make their own production decisions in response to market signals. Moreover, for every percentage point that is shaved from interest rates and inflation due to deficit reduction, farm income benefits by over a billion dollars.

Because farmers have always been important stewards of the Earth, this farm bill will help farmers protect water quality and wildlife habitat. And its greater flexibility will boost crop rotation, in turn helping to control weeds and pests and erosion. There's more in this legislation to protect our environment. In fact, this is the most environmentally progressive farm bill ever signed. It creates a wetlands reserve; improves the Conservation Reserve Program; and encourages urban forestry initiatives, including funding for a program that's near and dear to my heart, the America the Beautiful Initiative. That moves us toward our goal of planting a billion trees across America.

For the sake of low-income Americans, I'm particularly pleased with the 5-year continuation of the Food Stamp Program, the foundation for food assistance for Americans in need. Congress and this administration worked closely together to develop a program that is easier for recipients to use and reauthorizes the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

So, to the Members of Congress who worked so hard to get this bill passed -- to Senator Leahy and Dick Lugar of the Senate Agricultural Committee; then in the House side to Congressmen Kika de la Garza, the chairman, and Ed Madigan, who couldn't be with us today; and to all involved here -- and I'll single out again our minority leader in the Senate, Bob Dole -- well done.

And to you, Clayt, and the dedicated people at the Department who worked so tirelessly with Congress to get this farm bill written and passed: You've given this administration a farm bill of which I think we can all be very proud.

And to all of you here today from the State ASCS [Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service] offices, who will be working so hard to implement this bill in the coming years, thank you for taking on this crucial task. You're helping assure a bright future for farming in America.

And now, with no further ado, I'd like to ask these five Members of Congress and the United States Senate to come up as we sign this legislation.

[At this point, the President signed the legislation.]

Listen, thank you all very much for coming, and he who lifts it can have it. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Agriculture Clayton K. Yeutter. The President's closing comments referred to the large size of the bill. S. 2830, approved November 28, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 624.