Every American has got a stake in rural America. Our farms feed the world and us at very low real costs, at very high quality. They also feed our sense of ourselves. They reinforce our values of hard work and faith and family and devotion to community and the land . We cannot truly renew our country if we leave our family farmers behind.
-- President Bill Clinton
September 15, 1998
Responding to the Farm Crisis and Strengthening the Safety Net
Responding to the Farm Crisis. President Clinton and Vice President Gore are determined to assist America's farmers and ranchers who are suffering through the third year in a row of low commodity prices and, for many, crop and livestock losses from severe drought and flooding. The President and Vice President have won nearly $14 billion in emergency assistance for farmers and ranchers since passage of the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996. This includes the strong emergency assistance package President Clinton won in 1998, which included 40 percent more funding than the bill first passed by Congress, which the President vetoed. This year, the President is likely to sign a $15.3 billion assistance package, the third in three years. The President and Vice President remain concerned that Congress has not addressed the underlying issues that exist in the wake of Freedom to Farm legislation and that more needs to be done. [Department of Agriculture; 1998 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Strengthening the Safety Net. Because the 1996 Freedom to Farm Bill fails to sufficiently support farm family incomes when crop prices fall or natural disasters strike, the Clinton-Gore Administration's FY 2001 budget includes a comprehensive $11 billion package to strengthen the farm safety net through 2002 when the next farm bill will be enacted. The proposal includes counter-cyclical income assistance, crop insurance reform, a major conservation program initiative (much of which extends beyond 2002), and targeted assistance to certain segments of the farm and rural communities. [FY 2001 Budget, p. 205]
Providing Much-Needed Loan Assistance. In 1999, the Agriculture Department experienced an unprecedented demand for farm loans and loan guarantees. The USDA responded by providing over 37,000 loans and loan guarantees, totaling $3.9 billion -- 11,000 loans and $1.7 billion more than in 1998. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Responding to Drought Victims. Drought costs ranchers and farmers an estimated $6-8 billion a year, more than damages caused by floods or hurricanes. In 1999, during one of the worst droughts in U.S. history, counties in 44 states were declared agricultural disaster areas, making emergency loans available to tens of thousands hard-hit farmers. Virtually the entire East Coast was declared a disaster. In May 2000, Secretary Glickman unveiled the National Drought Policy Commission's report on the need for an integrated, coordinated federal policy, designed to prepare for and respond to serious drought emergencies. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; Office of the Vice President, 5/16/00]
Expanding Access to Crop Insurance. Crop insurance is the primary safety net for farmers following a crop loss. The Clinton-Gore Administration reduced premiums for crop insurance by approximately 30 percent in 1999, helping boost the number of farmers with insurance. In 1998, nearly $27 billion in protection was provided on 181 million acres through more than 1.75 million policies; almost double the $13.6 billion protection on the 100 million acres insured in 1994. The Administration has proposed improvements to the crop insurance program, including making insurance more affordable for farmers, covering multiyear disasters and insuring certain livestock losses. The President also signed legislation in 1998 fully funding the crop insurance program for the next five years, giving farmers the security of knowing that help will be there if disaster strikes. The Administration has been working with Congress in support of an assistance package to help farmers and ranchers weather the ongoing farm crisis. On May 25, 2000, the House and Senate passed the $15 billion Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. About $8.2 billion is targeted for crop insurance, of which approximately $5.6 billion will go toward reducing premiums on federally subsidized crop insurance over the next five years. The legislation also makes a series of changes in the crop insurance program designed to get more farmers to buy the coverage. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; USDA 1999 Success Stories; Presidential Statement, 6/23/98]
Addressing the Pork Crisis. The Clinton-Gore Administration's Pork Crisis Task Force, at the Agriculture Department, purchased more than 118 million pounds of pork worth nearly $127 million, to be used in Federal nutrition programs. The Task Force expanded efforts to assist U.S. pork packers and processors marketing their pork products through brand initiatives and quality management system verification. The Clinton-Gore Administration has made more than $50 million in direct cash payments to thousands of family farm hog producers to help them cope with disastrously low hog prices. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; White House Press Release, 1/8/98]
Helping Cattle Producers. The Clinton-Gore Administration has worked to help offset a surplus of cattle that has depressed prices for ranchers, farmers, and feedlot operators. In December 1998, Vice President Gore announced that the Agriculture Department would buy up to $20 million in U.S. beef, to be used for the school lunch program, and to help improve prices in the beef and livestock industry. [White House Press Release, 12/1/98]
Expanding Opportunities for America's Family Farmers
Reaping the Benefits of Free Trade. In FY 1998 alone, American agricultural exports totaled $53.6 billion, creating an estimated 815,000 full-time jobs. Trade-dependent agricultural jobs pay higher than average wages and support a wide range of professions in both urban and rural communities. Each dollar in U.S. agricultural exports creates another $1.28 in related economic activity, generating about $122 billion of total economic activity last year. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; White House Fact Sheet, 12/1/99]
Opening Foreign Markets for America's Farmers. The Clinton-Gore Administration has worked hard to open foreign markets to American agricultural products, breaking nearly 80 barriers stifling U.S. farm trade in 1998 alone. Since 1993, the Administration has opened markets and expanded opportunity through NAFTA, GATT and nearly 300 other free trade agreements. In the next round of World Trade Organization negotiations, President Clinton is determined to work to open additional markets abroad and level the playing field for U.S. agriculture products. [Agriculture Department; National Security Council]
- The Clinton-Gore Administration has held successful discussions with Canada about access for U.S. wheat, cattle, hogs, and other trade issues; opened the Taiwanese market for pork, poultry and beef; reversed Turkey's tariff increase on cotton; opened Argentina's market to pork; and reopened Brazil's market for wheat. [1998 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 9/15/98]
Enforcing Our Trade Agreements. The Clinton-Gore Administration has been aggressive in using every tool at our disposal to ensure that our trading partners honor agreements we have made. The United States is bringing and winning more cases in the World Trade Organization than any other country, and over one-third of the cases we have initiated involve agriculture. [The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 9/15/98]
Agricultural Cooperation Agreement with China. In April 1999, the Administration signed the Agreement on U.S.-China Agricultural Cooperation, with China agreeing to end longstanding bans on imports of U.S. wheat, meat, citrus and poultry. The agreement also called for China's commitment to the application of sound science in trade issues, a key principal of the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement. When this Cooperation agreement is fully implemented, annual U.S. agricultural exports will increase by an estimated $900 million. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Historic U.S.-China Trade Agreement. In November 1999, the Clinton-Gore Administration reached an historic trade agreement that will open China's markets to American goods, including agricultural products, and hold the Chinese government to international standards. The agreement will significantly lower Chinese tariffs, and ensure fair treatment for both American businesses in China and American workers here at home.
Supporting U.S. Agriculture Exports. In 1998, USDA expanded its new Supplier Credit Guarantee Program, which guarantees repayments of short-term loans that exporters have extended directly to importers for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products. As a result, exporters registered more than $46 million in FY 1999, a 150 percent increase over the previous year. Agriculture Secretary Glickman reactivated the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) to partly compensate U.S. poultry producers for markets lost in Europe. He also announced an EEP initiative for barley, in response to the European Union's heavily subsidized sale of barley into the U.S. market. And under the Dairy Export Incentive Program, Secretary Glickman authorized export bonuses up to the maximum volume and spending limits consistent with our World Trade Organization obligations.
Record Foreign Food Aid Assistance. The U.S. provided nearly 8 million metric tons of U.S. commodities to nearly 50 countries, almost five times last year's 1.6 million and the largest tonnage in recent years. In July 1998, President Clinton announced that the U.S. Government would purchase more than 80 million bushels of surplus wheat from American farmers, to help lift prices in America and ease hunger in the developing world. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; USDA Food Aid Initiative, 8/7/98]
Farmer Direct Marketing. The Farmer Direct Marketing Action Plan led to development of a web page that provides marketing information for small-scale farmers; links to Federal, State, university and other direct marketing web sites; and includes a bimonthly newsletter. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Modernizing Agriculture Research. President Clinton signed into law the Agriculture Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998, which will channel an additional $120 million a year over the next 5 years to vital investments in food and agriculture genome research, food safety and technology, human nutrition, and agricultural biotechnology. These investments will lead to advances in new production systems for crops and livestock. The bill also provides $300 million for rural development and innovative agricultural research. [Presidential Statement, 6/23/98]
Increasing Lending to Minority and Women Producers. The Agriculture Department is strengthening programs and increasing outreach targeted to underserved communities, including increasing its lending to minority and women producers. In FY 1992, USDA made 961 loans worth $53.9 million to minority farmers. In FY 1999, that increased to 4,005 loans worth $296 million. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture; Department of Agriculture]
Reaching Out to Small Scale and Underserved Producers. The USDA, along with Southern University and A&M College, conducted a marketing workshop in April 2000 which brought together small-scale, minority, and disadvantaged farmers from seven mid-Southern states to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing farmers today. Attendees learned how to maximize economic potential through the development of effective marketing plans and how to produce and market quality products. USDA has also held several workshops for small firms representing a diverse cross section of small meat, poultry, and fruit and vegetable processors and dealers to explore ways to increase small business participation in USDA's purchase programs. In FY 1999, 31 percent of food purchased by USDA for Federal food assistance programs was purchased from small, small disadvantaged, or women-owned businesses.
Linking Farmers with Information Anytime, Anywhere. The Clinton-Gore Administration Department of Agriculture features an informative web page [www.usda.gov] that allows farmers to access information on topics ranging from applying for disaster assistance, to up-to-date rates for commodity loans, or even the latest weather report.
Working to Provide Clear Organic Standards. In March 2000, Secretary Glickman announced the publication of revised proposed organic standards that detail the methods, practices, and substances that can be used in producing and handling organic crops and livestock, as well as processed products. It establishes clear labeling criteria and rules so consumers know exactly what they are buying when they purchase organic food. USDA's proposal will allow organic farmers to export products more easily, because trading partners can more easily deal with one national standard rather than multiple State and private standards.
Protecting U.S. Agricultural Health. In FY 1999, USDA inspectors intercepted more than 1.7 million restricted plant materials and 288,000 meat/poultry products during agricultural quarantine inspections. These inspections are part of USDA's Safeguarding System designed to prevent, detect, and quickly respond to damaging agricultural pests and diseases. USDA's notable efforts in this area include responding to plum pox in Pennsylvania, citrus canker in Florida, and conducting accelerated activities to eradicate pseudorabies from U.S. swine.
Combating Invasive Species. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has launched an all-out offensive against alien invasive species that threaten environmental resources and human health. APHIS is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other Government agencies to prevent another serious outbreak of West Nile fever, a mosquito-borne virus that caused seven deaths in New York in 1999. USDA is also working across the country to control exotic weeds that spread and crowd out native plants. Approximately 3 million acres an area twice the size of Delaware are lost to invasive plants each year. Invasive species cost the United States an estimated $120 billion annually.
Revitalizing Rural America
New Markets Initiative. President Clinton's New Markets Initiative is helping to bring economic development and renewal to communities that have not benefited from the soaring economy by prompting approximately $15 billion in new investment in urban and rural areas. Last year, Congress provided $39.5 million of the Administration's request. In FY 2001, that request has expanded to a total of $248 million. [Presidential Statement, 8/5/99; White House Fact Sheet, 11/5/99]
Expanding Internet Access in Rural Communities. President Clinton's third New Markets tour highlighted the importance of closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of technology to underserved communities. High-speed Internet access is becoming as important to the economic vitality of a community as roads and bridges are today, allowing people to upgrade skills using distance learning and helping businesses communicate electronically with customers and suppliers. The President's FY 2001 budget includes a new $25 million program at the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture to accelerate private sector deployment of broadband networks in under-served urban and rural communities, using grants and loan guarantees. [White House Fact Sheet, 2/2/00]
Expanding Investment in Rural Areas. Spurring economic development in distressed communities, the Clinton-Gore Administration has created 31 Empowerment Zones and more than 100 Enterprise Communities, including 50 rural ECs, which are creating new jobs, new opportunities and stronger communities. This would have a dramatic effect in the areas with high unemployment, weak economies, shortages of affordable housing and other problems. The President won $70 million in funding for Rural and Urban Empowerment Zones in FY 2000 after Congress initially provided no funding. [National Economic Council, 11/18/99]
Supporting Economic Development. The Clinton-Gore Administration offered $1.2 billion in grants and loans in FY 1999 to support the development of new or expanded businesses in rural America. Of these funds, available through the USDA's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, about $100 million are expected to fund rural cooperatives. [USDA Rural Development Press Release, 115/99]
- On August 5, 1999, Vice President Gore announced a business assistance package that would invest more than $132 million for the creation or expansion of rural businesses across the United States -- an investment estimated to create or save more than 2,600 rural jobs, most of them in areas of high unemployment. [USDA Rural Development Press Release, 8/5/99]
Providing Housing Opportunities. The USDA Rural Development agency works with non-profit and private sector partners to offer direct housing loans and loan guarantees. USDA's Single Family Housing program reaches more rural people in need than almost any other housing program. In 1999 alone, the Clinton-Gore Administration invested $5.1 billion in rural housing through this program, providing over 66,000 new or rehabilitated homes for low and moderate income families including over 600 units for domestic farm laborers. In a typical year, Rural Development programs enable 60,000 to 70,000 rural Americans to buy homes and help 460,000 low-income rural Americans to rent apartments or other housing. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Strengthening Rural Hospitals. To ensure that rural hospitals are able to meet the health care needs of working families, the Clinton-Gore Administration began the Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which allows the creation of a new category of rural hospitals called critical access hospitals (CAHs). States will receive grants to develop a rural health plan, help communities decide which hospitals should convert to CAHs and promote the development of rural health networks that include enhanced delivery of emergency medical services. [HHS Press Release, 9/10/99]
Increasing Access to Community Services. The Clinton-Gore Administration invested $275 million in rural community projects such as child and adult care facilities, hospitals and health clinics, and public safety facilities, through the Agriculture Department. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Building a Strong Infrastructure. Through the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service, rural communities can find technical guidance and loan assistance for improving infrastructure. In 1999, the Clinton-Gore Administration directed an additional $3.4 billion to electric, telecommunications, water supply and waste disposal infrastructure projects in rural communities. Two million rural residents will enjoy the benefits of improved water or wastewater service, including 14,000 residents who received running water in their homes for the first time. [1999 Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture]
Ensuring Clean Water and Healthy Communities. The Clinton-Gore Administration won $1.8 billion in the FY 2000 budget for the Clean Water Action Plan, a 9 percent increase which includes funds to reduce polluted runoff from large livestock operations. Since 1993, the Environment Protection Agency has provided nearly $900 million in grants to combat polluted runoff. [National Economic Council, 11/18/99]
Providing Safe Drinking Water. The Clinton-Gore Administration has awarded over $200 million in Department of Agriculture loans and grants for over 100 safe drinking water projects in rural areas of 40 states. USDA grants and loans target rural communities plagued by some of the nation's worst water quality and dependability problems.
Growing Clean Energy Technologies. President Clinton issued an Executive Order to coordinate federal efforts to spur the development and use of bio-based technologies, which can convert crops, trees and other "biomass" into a vast array of fuels and materials. The Administration has also set a goal of tripling our use of bioenergy and bioproducts by 2010 to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 100 million tons a year the equivalent of taking 70 million cars off the road. [White House, 8/12/99]
To comment on this service,
send feedback to the Web Development Team.