Letter to Congressional Leaders on Drought Relief Legislation

 

July 25, 1988

 

Dear Mr. Chairman: (Dear Dick:) (Dear Ed:)

 

I appreciate the bipartisan, cooperative spirit with which the congressional Agriculture Committees have consulted the Administration in developing drought relief legislation.

 

As I told you in the Oval Office and as I told farm leaders on July 13, I am committed to taking whatever actions are necessary to protect America's farmers from excessive losses during this drought. I also set out my five objectives for drought relief legislation:

 

 -- First, relief should go to those who need it most. Creating windfalls for some will mean less for the truly deserving.

 

 -- Second, many of our farmers purchased Federal crop insurance, a sound business decision. They should not be penalized relative to farmers who did not act with such prudence.

 

 -- Third, this legislation should not force farmers to do unreasonable things. No program should, for example, include any incentive for a farmer to plow under his crops.

 

 -- Fourth, drought relief spending has to be considered in the context of our efforts to reduce the Federal deficit, and according to the November 1987 bipartisan budget agreement that we reached with Congress. To put it very simply, we must not bust the budget. The automatic budget sequestration cuts that overspending triggers would take back from farmers with one hand what we are providing in drought relief with the other.

 

 -- And finally, this humanitarian assistance should not be used as a means to other ends. Extraneous matters, such as rewriting the existing farm bill, will only deter our efforts to provide this much-needed aid.

 

I am concerned that, due to the undeniable pressure to produce a bill as quickly as possible, some provisions were incorporated in the current House and Senate versions of the drought bill (H.R. 5015/S. 2631) without adequate review. Consequently, each version of the bill contains features that are inconsistent with the drought relief objectives I have set forth.

 

We hope that the Congress shares our drought relief objectives and will continue to work with the Administration to enact them promptly into law.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ronald Reagan

 

Note: Identical letters were sent to Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Representative E. de la Garza of Texas, chairmen of the congressional Agriculture Committees, and to Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Representative Edward R. Madigan of Illinois, ranking minority members of the committees.