WASHINGTON, DC — As Pakistan prepares to make tender of 350,000 tons of wheat on July 15th, the House of Representatives today unanimously passed S. 2282, amended by language introduced by Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, to provide a one-year exemption for agricultural commodities from the embargo President Clinton placed on Pakistan and India in May.
Earlier today, Smith introduced the Agriculture Export Relief Act (H.R. 4195), a bill modeled after legislation passed by the Senate late last week. The Senate legislation (S. 2282) contains a five-year fix at a cost of $225 million with no spending offsets, instead designating the expenditures "emergency funding." Because such a budgetary designation could delay action on this legislation, Smith gained widespread support in the House by introducing the Agriculture Export Relief Act which provides a one-year exemption at a cost of $42 million. While there are no offsets provided within this legislation itself, sufficient offsets were provided on June 24th when the House passed an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act providing similar relief from President Clinton's grain embargo.
For the sake of expediency, the text of the Agriculture Export Relief Act was incorporated into S. 2282 as an amendment and passed under suspension of the rules today. The bill will now be sent back to the Senate for approval.
"My colleagues and I have been working to exempt agriculture from the embargo since it was imposed in May — and I think we've finally done it. It may not be a permanent solution, but it will fix the immediate problem by allowing our farmers to take advantage of this week's wheat tender in Pakistan while Congress continues to work on a more permanent resolution," Smith said.
"Despite the fact that exports now account for 30% of U.S. farm cash receipts and nearly 40% of all agricultural production, it has become increasingly difficult to expand agricultural markets because farmers and ranchers are increasingly denied access to certain world markets due to economic sanctions and embargoes," said Charlie Stenholm, the Committee's Ranking Member. "The sanctions provisions of the Arms Export Control Act were never intended to limit the use of the export credit guarantee program. Given the uncertainty in the U.S. wheat market, I especially support clarification of the Act."
Cosponsors of H.R. 4195 include Representatives George Nethercutt (R-WA), Larry Combest (R-TX), Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), Doug Bereuter (R-NE) John Boehner (R-OH), Tom Ewing (R-IL), Richard Pombo (R-CA), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Tim Holden (D-PA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Christopher John (D-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Bob Schaffer (R-CO), John Thune (R-SD), David Minge (D-MN), Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), and Lee Hamilton (D-IN).
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.