In a ceremony that began at an unusual time of 7:45 a.m., the president said, “hardworking farmers and ranchers, whether they be from Texas or Maine, from Mississippi or California, were up early and working hard.”
Responding to criticism of the farm bill by newspapers and some fellow Republicans, the president said he wanted to talk about the “tremendous contributions farmers make to America and the support they deserve” as he signed the measure that provides an $73.5 billion above the current legislation over the next 10 years.
“American farm and ranch families embody some of the best values of our nation: hard work and risk-taking, love of the land and love of our country,” he said. “Farming is the first industry of America the industry that feeds us, the industry that clothes us, and the industry that increasingly provides more of our energy. The success of America’s farmers and ranchers is essential to the success of the American economy.”
The president noted that he was honored to be the governor of the second-biggest farm state in the union, and that he understands how hard farmers have to work to make a living.
“I recently spent some time with some of my neighbors at the coffee shop in Crawford, Texas. I know how hard many struggle. Their livelihood depends on things they cannot control: the weather, crop disease, uncertain pricing. They need a farm bill that provides support and help when times are tough. And that is why I’m signing this bill today.”
In the past, he said, loan rates and minimum price farmers and ranchers received for some of their commodities were set too high. “This practice made the problem worse by encouraging surplus production, thereby forcing prices lower. This bill better balances loan rates, and better matches them to market prices.”
The legislation also reduce government interference in the market and in farmers’ and ranchers’ planting decisions, he said, adding that it support the Bush administration’s commitment to open trade and complies with the United States’ obligations to the World Trade Organization.
“I told the people, I said if you give me a chance to be the President, we’re not going to treat our agriculture industry as a secondary citizen when it comes to opening up markets,” the president said. “And I mean that. I understand how important the farm economy is to the future of our country.
“And because I believe the best way to help our farmers and ranchers is trade, I need trade promotion authority, particularly from the Senate. The House has passed it; I need it from the Senate. Soon.”
Bush noted the legislation offers incentives for good conservation practices on working lands.
“For farmers and ranchers, for people who make a living on the land, every day is Earth Day. There are no better stewards of the land than people who rely on the productivity of the land. And we can work with our farmers and ranchers to help improve the environment.”
He said the new farm bill will also help break a bad fiscal habit. In the past, Congress would pass a multi-year farm bill, and then every year after continue to pass supplemental bills.
“These unpredictable supplemental payments made it difficult for Congress to live within its budget, he said. “It also created uncertainty for farmers and ranchers, and their creditors. The bill I'm going to sign is generous enough to eliminate the need for supplemental support later this year and in the future, and therefore adds the kind of reliability that farmers and ranchers need.”
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