Remarks at the Signing Ceremony for the Food Security Act of 1985 and the Farm Credit Amendments Act of 1985

December 23, 1985

Thank you all very much. Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen: First, I want to thank Secretary [of Agriculture] Block and all the Members, those with us today and those who worked so hard on this but couldn't be here. Thank you all for the Herculean effort you've put forth on behalf of America's farmers.

The plight of so many of our farmers has been a major concern of this administration and of responsible Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. The level of concern, however, was much higher than the level of agreement on how best to deal with the problem. It's taken extraordinary hard work and cooperation, not to mention the tenacity of a mule, to maneuver these bills through Congress. The two pieces of legislation being signed into law today represent divergent approaches, but on balance, they're a step forward for American agriculture. They underscore the commitment of the legislative and executive branches to make things better for America's farmers, yet we must recognize, even while signing these bills, that there are no quick fixes.

The Food Security Act of 1985 is a comprehensive bill that improves our existing farm programs. It gives the Secretary of Agriculture the flexibility needed to maintain farm price supports at levels consistent with market realities. Unrealistic price supports put many farmers out of the running. This legislation will help put America's farmers back into a competitive position in world markets. America's farmers are the most productive in the world. This bill will help unleash their enormous productive capacity and will help America reclaim lost markets.

Under this bill, farmers will be eased into a market-oriented policy with generous income supports to ensure the viability of the transition. I believe more progress could have been made in keeping down costs, but I recognize that many Members of Congress have made a good-faith effort in this regard. With the signing of this legislation, we are moving away from the failed policies of the past. Our farmers must share in the growth and prosperity that is spreading throughout America. Our reforms will provide new hope for America's hard-working farmers and our rural communities.

This bill includes laudatory conservation measures, provisions for the training of food stamp recipients, and other positive features. On the negative side, it maintains costly and counterproductive government intervention in the dairy industry; encourages surplus production; and mandates export subsidies, which could well backfire on us. It will hurt sugar-producing nations that are our friends and allies. And, ironically, it could actually provide taxpayer subsidies to our adversaries. I intend to work with Congress to rectify these problems, especially in the area of trade.

The second bill being signed today is the Farm Credit Amendments Act of 1985. This law enables the farm credit system to pool its considerable resources in a self-help effort. It establishes a stronger and more complete regulatory oversight system, and it authorizes a backstop system of Federal assistance, although we believe that it will never be necessary. This reform will ensure a steady supply of credit to America's farmers and assure the investors of the safety and soundness of the system. What we do today recognizes that the health of American agriculture is essential to the well-being of the American economy. If things are not going well down on the farm, things cannot continue to go well in our cities and towns.

Members of both parties have managed to work together in passing these bills for the sake of our overall economy and for the sake of those Americans who produce our food and fiber. Cicero said so many centuries ago: ``Of all occupations from which gain is secured, there is none better than agriculture. Nothing more productive, nothing sweeter, nothing more worthy of a free man.'' Well, today I sign these bills with that ancient wisdom in mind.

And now I'll get to the signing.

Note: The President spoke at 11:03 a.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. H.R. 2100, the Food Security Act of 1985, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 198; S. 1884, the Farm Credit Amendments Act of 1985, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 205.