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President signs Farm Bill

After numerous revisions in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, President George W. Bush on Monday signed HR-2646, entitled the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, or "Farm Bill."

During a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Pres. Bush spoke to those assembled.

"American farm and ranch families embody some of the best values of our nation n hard work and risk-taking, love of the land and love of our country. Farming is the first industry of America n the industry that feeds us, the industry that clothes us, and the industry that increasingly provides more of our energy. The success of America's farmers and ranchers is essential to the success of the American economy," the President said. "This bill is generous, and will provide a safety net for farmers. And it will do so without encouraging overproduction and depressing prices. It will allow farmers and ranchers to plan and operate based on market realities, not government dictates. "

The President then spoke about what had been causing impacts on so many American farmers and ranchers.

"In the past, loan rates and minimum price farmers and ranchers received for some of their commodities were set too high," he said. "This practice made the problem worse by encouraging surplus production, thereby forcing prices lower. This bill better balances loan rates, and better matches them to market prices.

"It reduces government interference in the market, and in farmers' and ranchers' planting decisions. The farm bill supports our commitment to open trade, and complies with our obligations to the World Trade Organization," he said.

"Americans cannot eat all that America's farmers and ranchers produce. And therefore, it makes sense to sell more food abroad. Today, 25 percent of U.S. farm income is generated by exports, which means that access to foreign markets is crucial to the livelihood of our farmers and ranchers," Bush said. "Let me put it as plainly as I can n we want to be selling our beef and our corn and our beans to people around the world who need to eat."

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman spoke on the signing of the bill.

"I am pleased that the President has signed the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA) of 2002 into law," Veneman said. "This legislation will now provide certainty and support for America's farmers and ranchers in the coming years.

"The new farm bill provides rebalanced loan rates, lives within the Congressional budget resolution agreed to last year, and is consistent with our international trade obligations. The farm bill also contains record-level support for environmental stewardship, a renewed commitment to renewable fuels programs, and additional investments to help expand international markets, rural community programs and food stamp assistance for low-income Americans."

Congressman Terry Everett (R-Ala.) was also in attendance for the signing of the bill into law.

Everett, who helped write the six-year federal farm program, hailed it as a victory for America's struggling farmers.

"The new farm bill mended, corrected and renewed the safety net for our farmers, while providing support for American producers getting ready to compete in the global market," Everett said. "As for peanuts, the new farm bill will not only enable growers to hold their own, but will also offer them the ability to capitalize on the global market."

Everett, who serves as Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs, was a conferee in the recently concluded House-Senate farm bill conference.

He was the only Alabama lawmaker to participate in the conference, which worked out differences in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill.

The bill received final passage in the U.S. House on May 2, and was ratified by the U.S. Senate on May 9.

The new farm bill saves the peanut program from certain death at the hand of its political opponents, and from the undermining effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

It also reinstates a much-needed agriculture safety net for America's growers that was weakened by the 1996 farm bill (Freedom to Farm Act).