[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[October 3, 1998]
[Pages 1734-1735]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
October 3, 1998

    Good morning. This week I announced that we've closed the book on 
nearly three decades of deficits. Today I want to talk about another 
challenge we must face to keep our economy and our Nation growing 
strong: protecting America's farmers and ranchers.
    For nearly 6 years now, strengthening our economy has been my top 
priority as President.

[[Page 1735]]

Today, because of the hard work of the American people, these are good 
times for our country, with nearly 17 million new jobs, wages rising, 
the lowest unemployment in nearly 30 years, the lowest inflation in more 
than 30 years. But for the farmers and ranchers whose hard work has 
helped to build our new prosperity, times are not as good. In fact, 
America's farms are facing the worst crisis in more than a decade.
    This year, flood and drought and crop disease have wiped out entire 
harvests. Plummeting prices here at home and collapsing markets in Asia 
have threatened the livelihood of entire communities. Many farmers will 
see their net income this year drop by as much as 40 percent below a 5-
year average. Farm failures have become so common that in some parts of 
our country trained farm auctioneers have been brought out of 
retirement. Families who have farmed the same land for generations are 
giving up and moving to town.
    We've already taken steps to help farmers and ranchers weather the 
crisis. In August I signed new legislation to speed up farm program 
payments. Next week we'll purchase another allotment of the $250 million 
of wheat we pledged to buy to feed hungry people around the world and 
help our farmers here at home. And I've directed Secretary of 
Agriculture Dan Glickman to do everything within his authority to help 
farmers who have suffered significant losses and to give them the 
resources they need now to plan next spring's crops. But with crop and 
livestock prices still dropping, with foreign markets still in danger of 
collapse, with family farms still in jeopardy, we know we must do more.
    As we near the end of the legislative session and finish our work on 
the budget, we have a real opportunity to protect our farmers. The 
strict budget rules permit special measures for one-time emergencies. 
And make no mistake, for America's farm families this is a real 
emergency, as harmful as a hurricane, a flood, or a riot.
    So this summer, I sent a proposal to Congress for emergency aid for 
our farmers, and I backed a proposal by Senators Harkin and Daschle to 
lift the cap on marketing loan rates for one year. Since then, we've 
strengthened our proposal to help hundreds of thousands of farmers while 
honoring the budget rules.
    Congress is now considering a package which, though it adopts many 
of the protections we've proposed, still does not do enough for farmers 
who are suffering from the lowest prices in decades. I call on Congress 
not to leave town before they've sent me a comprehensive plan that 
protects farmers by strengthening the safety net at this very difficult 
    With Congress in town for just a few more days, we must take another 
critical step to help our farmers and ranchers who rely on exports to 
make a living and support their families. Farm products from one of 
every three acres planted in America are sold abroad. And when those 
markets stumble, our farmers take a fall, too.
    Just this week the New York Times ran a story that described the 
tons of wheat, apples, and other farm goods piling up on our docks 
because Asian customers can no longer afford them. That is why we must 
give the International Monetary Fund the resources it needs to help our 
customers in Asia so that they can continue to buy our farm products.
    Congress has had months and months to create a stronger IMF, better 
able to deal with the most serious financial challenge the world has 
faced in 50 years. Now, each day Congress delays on IMF, our farmers, 
our ranchers, our economy, our future suffer.
    It's way past time for Congress to act on the IMF and do the right 
thing for our farmers. Our farming families are the lifeblood of our 
land or, as President Franklin Roosevelt once called them, ``the source 
from which the reservoirs of our Nation's strength are constantly 
    We cannot afford to let them fail. And with these steps, we will 
strengthen and support our farms and our farm families, just as they 
have sustained us throughout our history.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 9:51 p.m. on October 2 at the Wyndham 
Hotel in Philadelphia, PA, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on October 3. The 
transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on 
October 2 but was embargoed for release until the broadcast.