Today, 40 Members of the House of Representatives joined Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest in writing a letter to President Clinton requesting that he recommend to Congress a concrete program to address the financial crisis facing American farmers and ranchers for the second consecutive year.
In 1998, when agricultural producers were in the throes of the worst farm economy in recent memory, the Clinton Administration acknowledged the difficulties facing farmers and ranchers but failed to request emergency funding or to deliver a proposal to address the crisis.
The complete text of the letter follows.
Dear Mr. President:
We read with interest your comments on the current farm crisis from your most recent press conference. We agree with you that the situation on the farm is "a terrible emergency." It is encouraging to read that you are going to recommend more help for America's farmers. You will remember, in the absence of any clear request or leadership from the Administration, it was very difficult to pull together the support package to assist producers through the crop and price disasters last year.
Farmers are now in the second year of seriously depressed prices and world stocks of agriculture products continue to grow. Just as was the case in the 1980's, basic farm programs are having difficulty coping with a problem of this magnitude. In the late 1980's a whole host of programs and initiatives was created to deal with a similar situation. Many of those solutions are available to us today. We appreciate the efforts of the Department of Agriculture to purchase surplus commodities for domestic and international donation, but these steps have not proven successful in turning the situation around.
In a very tight budget situation, Congress has provided funding to strengthen the farm financial safety net through improvements in the farm risk management system. The House will consider that legislation this summer, so that you can sign it in time to benefit the crops in 2000. Farmers, however, cannot wait; many of them are facing financial ruin this crop year. In order to prevent widespread farm bankruptcies, we must provide help for the 1999 crop.
To that end, and in light of your recent comments, we are offering to work with you toward the goal of providing assistance to agricultural producers this year. Utilizing the resources of the Department of Agriculture to provide a national assessment of the scope of the problem and your ability to survey the budgetary resources of the entire government, we are awaiting your specific proposals on how to best help farmers through this difficult period.
Mr. President, America's farmers cannot withstand a second year of record low prices without our help. We and they are looking to you for a plan of action to relieve their distress. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to work with you on this critical issue.