PRESIDENT CLINTON SIGNS FARM SPENDING BILL
President Clinton on Saturday signed into law the farm spending bill for this fiscal year. The measure provides approximately $3.5 billion in disaster assistance for America's farmers and ranchers, who have been forced to contend with drought, floods, fires, and low prices this year, including $1.3 billion for crop loss payments, $667 million for dairy market loss payments, $490 million for livestock assistance and $158 million for apple and cranberry growers.
"This assistance is sorely needed and we will be working hard to distribute it quickly," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. "I know these funds will help prevent some small and medium size family farmers from going out of business."
At the same time, Glickman reiterated his strong desire to see a major rewrite of the 1996 farm bill "to provide farmers with a stronger and more reliable safety net instead of ad hoc disaster payments."
The appropriations bill also contains provisions sought by the Clinton-Gore Administration to help tens of thousands of the working poor. The measure relaxes restrictions on car ownership, so that people can access reliable transportation to get to work without sacrificing their food stamp benefits. There is also additional funding for food stamps outreach to help ensure that those eligible for the program are aware of the nutritional benefits available to them. The bill also includes funds to assist families using food stamps with high rent and utility expenses.
Glickman remained dismayed because, "Congress has again failed to honor the President's repeated requests to restore food stamps for legal immigrants, and to provide funding for farmland protection efforts."
The bill fully funds President Clinton's Food Safety Initiative, which has changed inspections and is aimed at helping decreasing foodborne illnesses, while continuing to fund expanded food safety research. The measure permits USDA to greatly expand its already substantial investment in rural America, increasing total rural development loan and grant funding by $2 billion to $13.2 billion. It also contains $24 million in development funding for Native American communities, that have not shared in our nation's prosperity.
Glickman expressed his concern about a provision which takes away a USDA Under Secretary's duties managing our National Forests and Conservation Programs.