[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[October 7, 1998]
[Pages 1764-1765]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1764]]

Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval 
Agriculture Appropriations Legislation
October 7, 1998

To the House of Representatives:
    I am returning herewith without my approval, H.R. 4101, the 
``Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and 
Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1999.'' I am vetoing this bill 
because it fails to address adequately the crisis now gripping our 
Nation's farm community.
    I firmly believe and have stated often that the Federal Government 
must play an important role in strengthening the farm safety net. This 
appropriations bill provides an opportunity each year for the Government 
to take steps to help hardworking farmers achieve a decent living, 
despite the misfortune of bad weather, crop disease, collapsing markets, 
or other forces that affect their livelihoods. It is especially 
necessary for the Government to act this year, with prices dropping 
precipitously, crops destroyed by flood, drought, and disease, and where 
many farmers will see their net income drop by as much as 40 percent 
below a 5-year average.
    Two years ago, when I signed the ``Freedom to Farm Bill,'' I made 
clear that it did not provide an adequate safety net for our Nation's 
farmers. There is no better proof of that bill's shortcomings than the 
hardship in America's farm country this year. Our farm families are 
facing their worst crisis in a decade.
    My Administration has already taken steps to address this crisis. In 
July, we announced the purchase of $250 million of wheat to export to 
hungry people around the world. In August, I signed legislation to speed 
up farm program payments. But in the face of a growing emergency for our 
Nation's farmers, we must do more to ensure that American farmers can 
continue to provide, for years to come, the safest and least expensive 
food in the world. Last month, I sent to the Congress a request for $2.3 
billion in emergency aid for our farmers, and I supported Senator 
Daschle's and Harkin's proposal to boost farm income by lifting the cap 
on marketing loan rates.
    I am extremely disappointed that the Congress has reacted to this 
agriculture emergency situation by sending me a bill that fails to 
provide an adequate safety net for our farmers. I have repeatedly stated 
that I would veto any emergency farm assistance bill if it did not 
adequately address our farmers' immediate needs, and this bill does not 
do enough.

    The lack of sufficient emergency aid for farmers in this bill is 
particularly problematic in light of the bill's other provisions that 
affect farmers and their rural communities. Cutting edge agricultural 
research is absolutely essential to improve our farmers' productivity 
and to maintain their advantage over our competitors around the world. 
But this bill eliminates the $120 million in competitive research grants 
for this year that I strongly supported and signed into law just last 
June. It also blocks the $60 million from the Fund for Rural America 
provided through that same bill, preventing needed additional rural 
development funds that would help our Nation's rural communities to 
diversify their economies and improve their quality of life. The bill 
also cuts spending for our food safety initiative in half, denying funds 
for research, public education, and other food safety improvements.

    Many of our most vulnerable farmers have also had to face an 
obstacle that no one in America ever should have to confront: racial 
discrimination. Over 1,000 minority farmers have filed claims of 
discrimination by USDA's farm loan programs in the 1980s and early 1990s 
that the statute of limitations bars from being addressed. While I am 
pleased that this legislation contains a provision waiving the statute 
of limitations, I am disappointed that it does not contain the language 
included in the Senate's version of this bill, which accelerates the 
resolution of the cases, provides claimants with a fair and full court 
review if they so choose, and covers claims stemming from USDA's housing 
loan programs.

    Therefore, as I return this bill, I again call on the Congress to 
send me a comprehensive plan, before this session ends, that adequately 
responds to the very real needs of our farmers at this difficult time.

                                                      William J. Clinton

[[Page 1765]]

The White House,

October 7, 1998.

Note: This message was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on 
October 8.