Radio Address to the Nation on the Agricultural and Steel Industries

September 22, 1984

My fellow Americans:

When we took office in 1981, our goal was to help all of you build a new era of lasting economic growth without inflation. And we're getting closer. For the first time since the 1960's, America is enjoying strength in economic growth, business investment, productivity, and the creation of new jobs -- 6 million in the last 20 months -- while at the same time, we're keeping inflation down.

Yesterday we learned that inflation for the last 12 months remains at 4.2 percent, only a third of 1980's 12.4 percent. We're enjoying an historic economic renewal. We can be proud of our accomplishments, but we can't and won't be satisfied until this expansion reaches every sector of our economy.

Two sectors in which millions seek their livelihood, steel and agriculture, have not shared fully in the recovery. This week we took additional action to help people in both steel and agriculture help themselves, so they can work their way out of difficulty and become full partners in our economic expansion, helping all of us build a stronger future.

The American steel industry, as you know, has been struggling through hard times in recent years. The steel companies and their workers have been trying hard to save their industry by cutting costs and modernizing their aging plants and equipment. And we've been trying to help. Our tax reduction, passed in 1981, encourages just such business investments to modernize smokestack America.

The industry is beginning to recover, but it's still climbing uphill on the international playing field. In some cases, new technology has simply reduced the need for steel products. But the industry has also been hurt by foreign subsidies and an overproduction of steel worldwide, with foreign imports biting into the U.S. steel industry's share of our domestic market, making the United States a kind of steel dump for the rest of the world.

Well, that simply isn't acceptable, so we've designed a comprehensive plan to cover the entire steel industry and enable us to take swift, effective action to keep the U.S. from being foreign countries' dumping ground.

I've instructed Ambassador Bill Brock, our international trade representative, to meet with representatives of those nations dumping steel and to seek their agreement to stop such practices. And I've made it clear that, as necessary, we'll initiate strong counteractions to defend American firms and workers from predatory practices of other nations.

Taken together, these actions can be expected to bring down the percentage of steel imports from its current 26 percent to about 18\1/2\ percent, excluding semifinished products. And they'll enable our steel producers to continue their modernization and compete on a level playing field again.

One thing I'm not doing, for it would damage our economy more than it would help, is imposing import quotas. That kind of protectionism is my opponent's policy and, just like his tax increase, it's the wrong policy. The lessons of history are clear. The costs of protectionism for one group would automatically be passed on to another. Inflation would be reignited, jobs would be destroyed, not saved, and foreign countries would retaliate against our exporters, like our farmers. And America doesn't need that kind of help.

I'm confident our plan will help steel producers rebuild and become stronger, more competitive, and profitable again. And that's how we're trying to help our farmers, as well. We've ended the last administration's grain embargo, restored grain sales to the Soviet Union, and we've been able to bring down interest rates and sharply reduce inflation.

Unfortunately, our success against inflation, while helpful to farmers in most respects, has caused them some special problems. Many farmers took out loans in the late 1970's when inflation was soaring, and they assumed the value of the land they were pledging as collateral would keep rising with inflation. Well, now that inflation has plunged, those loans have become very difficult for some of those farmers to carry, so in the last 3 years the Farmers Home Administration has more than doubled its regular operating loans for farmers.

This week we announced another major initiative to assist farmers trying to cope with debt burdens. Farmers Home will permit a deferral for 5 years of up to 25 percent of principal and interest payments owed by farmers who need breathing room. The deferrals will be made on a case-by-case basis. For those not participating in FmHA, we're making available $630 million in guarantees of loans by private banks as part of rescheduling plans for troubled farmers.

The road back isn't easy. But by resisting quick fixes and helping those in steel and farming help themselves, we'll make sure all of us can, and will, go forward together.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.