WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and Congressman Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), Ranking Minority Member, in a letter today urged President Clinton to abslove food and agricultural commodities from sanctions against countries conducting nuclear testing, in accordance with the law.
On Thursday, President Clinton called for wide-ranging sanctions against Pakistan as mandated under the Arms Export Control Act after Pakistan detonated nuclear devices. Clinton imposed similar sanctions against India after it broke a 24-year self-imposed moratorium by conducting underground tests on May 11 and 13, 1998. The sanctions against India represent the first time Section 102 of the Arms Export Control Act has been invoked. Section 102 of the Act calls for the prohibition on assistance to countries involved in the export, transfer, or detonation of nuclear explosive devises, but exempts humanitarian assistance and agricultural commodities.
"We urge you to ensure that in applying the appropriate sanctions against countries determined to be in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, any action taken exclude all U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that are related to food or agricultural commodities. Furthermore, we urge you to treat agricultural export credit guarantee programs and concessional credit programs as being outside the scope of the Act. It is our conclusion that this is the appropriate interpretation of the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act," Smith and Stenholm wrote.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has yet to issue a final decision on whether the sanctions will affect GSM export credits to Pakistan or India. Pakistan received $250 million in GSM-102 export credits under its FY98 allocation and has just over $88 million left for the year.
"The United States exported $418 million in agricultural commodities to Pakistan last year and are expected to export close to $500 million this year. Pakistan is not a trading partner we can afford to lose. If these sanctions include GSM credits, it could devastate U.S. farmers and ranchers," Smith said today.
"Pakistan is one of the greatest markets for U.S. wheat. I have advocated an aggressive use of export programs and I worked last year to extend GSM credits to Pakistan. I will continue to press the Administration to recognize how disastrous these sanctions could be on American agriculture," Smith said.
"This is not just a national security issue. Our farmers and ranchers should not suffer because of actions taken by the Pakistan government. This is a sensitive time. But it is not a time to punish the American farmers and ranchers who will lose if these sanctions do not exempt agricultural commodities," Smith said.
"It is clear to me that the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act, and the sanctions under that Act, do not and were not intended to limit the use of the export credit guarantee program, which has facilitated wheat sales to Pakistan. These sales are extremely important to our farmers. The continued use of our export credit guarantee program in no way interferes with the response the President has made to Pakistan's recent testing of nuclear devices," said Charlie Stenholm, the committee's ranking minority member.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.