Statement on Signing the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981

December 22, 1981

I am pleased to sign today a bipartisan farm bill that recognizes both our reliance on the American farmer and the limits of government.

This legislation is the result of many months of hard work, both in the Congress and in the administration. There are many in the House and Senate who deserve credit for their efforts, but in particular I would like to thank Senators Jesse Helms, Bob Dole, and Dee Huddleston, and Representatives Kika de la Garza, Bill Wampler, and Tom Foley for their leadership. This bill provides needed assistance to our farmers and ranchers, benefits consumers, and is responsible from a budget perspective.

The strength of our economy is our reliance on the marketplace. All Americans are gripped today by a painful recession. Our agricultural producers -- the farmers and ranchers who are our mainstay -- feel the sting of high interest rates and inflation the same as any other business man or woman. Returning to the principles of free enterprise will return us all to prosperity.

The Agriculture and Food Act of 1981 recognizes the importance of the marketplace and emphasizes the great export potential of American agriculture. This bill will help farmers expand foreign markets and enhance our already positive agricultural balance of trade. I would like to challenge America's agricultural community to take full advantage of these export incentive provisions. I believe we can increase our agricultural exports 42 percent by 1984. That would mean $64 billion in agricultural trade -- an increase of $19 billion pouring directly into our agricultural economy.

Funding for significant programs such as food stamps, agricultural research and extension services, and Food for Peace are also authorized in this bill.

We should never forget that American farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. On behalf of all Americans, I thank them for the abundance we enjoy even in these difficult days. I sign this bill in the belief that it will yield benefits to both producers and consumers. Working together, sensitive to the needs of each in the marketplace, we can restore prosperity to all our people.

Note: The President signed the bill at a ceremony in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, S. 884 is Public Law 97 - 98, approved December 22.