Remarks on Signing the Disaster Assistance Act of 1988

 

August 11, 1988

 

Good morning, and welcome to the White House. And my greetings to the distinguished Members of Congress who've done so much to make this possible -- this legislation that I'm about to sign -- Dick Lugar, Ed Madigan, Pat Leahy, and Kika de la Garza. And special greetings to the Krone family, whose farm I visited not long ago in Du Quoin, Illinois. That region of Illinois is among those hardest hit by the drought, but even in the midst of this trial, the Krones offered me their warm hospitality.

 

And since you welcomed me to your home, I thought it would be only fitting to invite you here to Nancy's and mine. Well, I know that there are a number of other farmers here today, including some who were visited by Secretary Lyng and the Interagency Drought Policy Committee, and so, welcome to all of you.

 

The bill that I'm about to sign represents the largest disaster-relief measure in history. According to this legislation, farmers who lost more than 35 percent of a crop will receive direct payments to help cover their losses. Livestock producers who've suffered losses in feed production due to the drought will also receive relief. In all, hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers will benefit.

 

The bill expresses a distinctly American tradition: that of lending a helping hand when misfortune strikes. And there's another tradition it embodies, one of our noblest political traditions: bipartisanship. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle worked together on this legislation in the understanding that the need to help our farmers rose far above any partisan politics. And I'm especially pleased that they were able to do so, operating within our budget requirements. And I want to add my special thanks to my Secretary of Agriculture, Dick Lyng. Dick, this is your bill.

 

This legislation is helpful and generous, but at the same time, it's not a budget-buster, since the drought will reduce the cost of our regular farm programs. To ensure the continued success of this important bill, we must stick to the principles I've outlined: targeting assistance to the truly needy and emphasizing sound business decisions. That way, we'll be able to keep costs down to the $3.9 billion currently estimated. You know, when I told the Krones about the trouble we so often have with special interests adding unnecessary costs to legislation, they said, ``Let's save the Christmas trees for the 25th of December.'' Well, we've done just that.

 

Congratulations to the congressional leadership on a job well done. Special congratulations to Secretary of Agriculture Dick Lyng, for his leadership throughout this legislative effort. But most of all, congratulations to America's farmers for the indomitable spirit with which they've been facing this crisis. This bill isn't as good as rain, but it'll tide you over until normal weather and your own skills permit you to return to your accustomed role of being the most productive farmers in the world.

 

American agriculture is one of the great success stories of our time. As recently as 1949, a single American farmer could feed 19 people for a year. Today a single American farmer feeds 120 people for a year. American products are shipped around the world. And through all these decades, despite drought and misfortune, American agriculture continues to succeed.

 

So, thank you all, God bless you, and now let me get to signing it.

 

You have to hear that. Senator Dole has just said, ``We spell relief L-y-n-g.''

 

Note: The President spoke at 10:34 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. H.R. 5015, approved August 11, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 387.