Remarks on Signing the Agricultural Programs Adjustment Act of 1984

April 10, 1984

In my State of the Union Address this year, I called on the Congress to join me in cutting projected deficits significantly over the next 3 years. I said at the time that deficit reductions should be a bipartisan effort, bringing representatives of both parties in the Congress together with the top officials of the administration to develop specific proposals. I'm delighted to report that the first result of that effort has finally reached -- well, not my desk, but that table. H.R. 4072, the Agricultural Programs Adjustment Act of 1984, will reduce Federal spending by $3.2 billion over the next 3 fiscal years.

Seldom do I receive legislation that will reduce government spending and at the same time help improve conditions for farmers. This new law will help reduce excessive wheat supplies. At the same time, it'll keep the production of other major crops from growing too fast by establishing more reasonable target price levels -- price levels that discourage excessive production both here and abroad.

In addition, during negotiations on this legislation we were able to provide additional funding for farm exports and for farm disaster assistance programs, both high priorities for farmers. In recent years, farmers have gone through some hard times because of a weak demand in export markets and unusually large harvests of certain crops that resulted in weak prices. In addition, farmers went through a particularly wrenching transition from the very high inflation and interest rates of the late 1970's to today's more restrained inflation. Now that the cost of fuel, fertilizer, equipment, and the other items that farmers depend on has stopped rising at double-digit rates, I believe that we're poised for a more stable and secure recovery in the farm economy.

When the Congress passed the 1981 farm bill, few people thought that inflation would come down as fast as it did. That law, therefore, mandated large automatic increases in farm price supports, a desperate effort to keep farmers' heads above water in a rising tide of inflationary pressures. Well, with our success in controlling inflation, those mandated increases are no longer needed to offset costs; indeed, instead of improving conditions in the farm sector, the mandated target price increases threatened to further depress commodity prices by creating too great an incentive for increased production at the same time that they were adding to the deficits. H.R. 4072 makes much needed reductions in the increases mandated by the 1981 farm bill.

I want to commend the fine bipartisan effort of the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Jesse Helms, and the chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Kika de la Garza, and thanks as well to Secretary of Agriculture, John Block for his fine leadership. Their work was vital in moving H.R. 4072 through the Congress quickly.

This bill was the product of some tough head-to-head negotiations. Like any compromise, it's far from perfect, but it demonstrates that a good-faith effort by all parties can produce results. As I sign this first installment of the deficit downpayment, I want to give a word of encouragement to those who are working on the remaining proposals still under consideration by the Congress. The skeptics who claimed that the Congress and the administration would be unwilling to take any tough steps to reduce the deficit were just plain wrong. And now that we've shown we can do it, we must go on to take the other tough steps that the good of the country demands.

So, I thank all of them, thank you. God bless you, and now I should do what I've been talking about and sign that bill.

Note: The President spoke at 3:53 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 4072 is Public Law 98 - 258, approved April 10.