Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, at the outset, I compliment my distinguished colleague from Mississippi for the outstanding work that he has done as chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee of Appropriations.
I have had the pleasure to work with Senator COCHRAN for some 19 years now. We have been on the subcommittee together for that time and the full committee for that time. There is no more difficult area in the Senate than working out a farm bill on the Agriculture appropriations bill because, candidly, the farmers are faced with so many problems. These are subjects very near and dear to my heart because I grew up in farm territory in the State of Kansas. I was born in Wichita and moved
to Russell County, KS, when I was 12, worked on a farm as a teenager, drove a tractor, and have some firsthand experience with the problems which the agricultural community has.
I am very much concerned with a number of provisions in the bill. I declined to sign the conference report, and with great reluctance because of the hard work that the chairman has done and others have done. I intend to vote against the conference report, although I think there are enough votes present to pass it. There is a cloture motion pending. The issue has been raised as to whether there would be an attempt to filibuster. It may be that the issues can be worked out without a filibuster.
I hope the issues can be worked out. But if the filibuster vote comes up I will vote against cloture to continue the consideration of this issue, even though I realize fully the importance of resolving our appropriations bills in the very immediate future.
The reasons that I am concerned about the provisions of the bill relate to two issues.
First, it is my view that Mid-Atlantic States, and my State of Pennsylvania specifically, have not gotten a fair share of the disaster assistance. The Agriculture appropriations bill provides for $8.7 billion in disaster assistance. But the vast majority of this money goes to farmers in the Midwest to compensate for low commodity prices. It may be that the disaster assistance is a broader category than you might expect, or perhaps the disaster assistance is modified by the fact that some $7.5
billion goes to the Midwest to compensate for low commodity prices. Only $1.2 billion is provided for natural disasters. That $1.2 billion must compensate not only for the drought but also the disasters including Hurricane Floyd, flooding in the Midwest, livestock loss, and fishery loss. Pennsylvania alone has sustained $700 million in drought loss. The Mid-Atlantic States have suffered $2.5 billion as a result of the drought this summer.
Year after year, Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic Senators have supported massive aid packages to farmers in the Midwest--some $17 billion between August 1998 and June 1999. Now that the Mid-Atlantic farmers are facing a real crisis, my view is the Congress has not provided sufficient compensation.
There is another issue of concern; that is, the amendment which I was prepared to offer in the conference. Senator COCHRAN has accurately described the conference. It was rather anomalous.
At about 7:15, the House conferees asked for a recess of 10 to 15 minutes. And more than an hour and a half later they had not returned.
Although many of the conferees wanted to vote to extend the Northeast Dairy Compact and to allow Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia to join, the leadership in the House was opposed. I believe the Northeast Compact ought to be reauthorized, and a number of States, including Pennsylvania, ought to be permitted to join.
Without going into elaborate arguments, this is to provide price stability without any cost to the Government, but to the benefit of consumers. The price fluctuated from as much as $17.34 in December of 1998 to a little over $10 in January of 1999. With that kind of instability, it is very difficult on the farmers.
There is another issue about option 1-A which some 60 Senators and 240 House Members have recommended; contrary to that very large majority, the Secretary of Agriculture proposed a rule which was different, 1-B. Dairy compact legislation was offered on April 27, 1999, by Senators JEFFORDS and LEAHY. I joined with 40 cosponsors. When the Senate considered the issue of dairy pricing and compacts on August 4, 1999 on a vote for cloture, we received 53 votes--short of the 60 majority.
It is my hope yet we will work out the compact for the Northeastern United States and also the 1-A pricing. These are matters which impact very heavily upon my State and upon the farmers far beyond my State as a national matter.
With reluctance, I intend to vote against the conference report and to support the postcloture for extended debate to try to bring about greater equities.
I yield the floor. [Page: S12408]
Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, I thank the chairman of the subcommittee for all his tremendous work on this bill. Most of what I wanted, however, did not succeed. It was not because of his lack of effort. He has put a tremendous amount of time in trying to make the bill more acceptable to those of us who live in the Northeast.
It is with great disappointment that I stand before the Senate to express my reasoning for opposing the fiscal year 2000 Agriculture appropriations bill, the bill that provides funding for agriculture programs, research and services for American agriculture. [Page: S12409]
In addition, the bill provides billions of dollars of aid for farmers and ranchers throughout America who have endured natural and market disasters. However, and most unfortunately, it neglects our Nation's dairy farmers.
I understand the importance of funding these programs and the need to provide relief for farmers. However, dairy farmers throughout the country and the drought stricken Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions have been ignored in this bill. For these reasons, I must vote against this bill.
The Agriculture appropriations bill provides $8.7 billion in assistance to needy farmers across the country. I believe they should receive the help of the Federal Government. What is troubling is that dairy farmers are not asking for Federal dollars, but instead are asking for a fair pricing structure for their products, at no cost to the Government.
The drought-stricken Northeastern States are not asking for special treatment, just reasonable assistance to help deal with one of our region's worst drought.
Weather-related and market-related disasters do occur and we must as a nation be ready help those in need. In Vermont, in times of need, a neighbor does not have to ask another for help. Vermonters are willing to help, whether it is plowing out a neighbors snow covered driveway or delivering hay to Midwestern States during one of their worst droughts, which we did some years ago to save Wisconsin and Minnesota from terrible problems.
This summer weather conditions in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic put a tremendous strain on the region's agricultural sector. Crops throughout the region were damaged or destroyed. Many farmers will not have enough feed to make it through this winter. Water for livestock and dairy operations dried up, decreasing production and health of the cows.
The Northeastern and mid-Atlantic States were not asking for much. Just enough assistance to help cope with the unpredictable Mother Nature.
America's dairy farmers need relief of a different kind. There is no need for the expenditure of Federal funds. Commodity farmers are asking the government for relief from natural and market disasters. Dairy farmers are asking for relief from the promised Government disaster in the form of a fair pricing structure from the Secretary of Agriculture. That is all we are asking.
Unless relief is granted by correcting the Secretary's Final rule and extending the Northeast Dairy Compact, dairy farmers in every single State will sustain substantial losses, but not because of Mother Nature or poor market conditions, but because of the Clinton administration and a few here in Congress have prevented this Nation's dairy farmers from receiving a fair deal.
Unfortunately, Secretary Glickman's pricing formulas are fatally flawed and contrary to the will of Congress. The Nation's dairy farmers are counting on this Congress to prevent the dairy industry from being placed at risk, and to instead secure its sound future.
Secretary Glickman's final pricing rule, known as Option 1-B, was scheduled to be implemented on October 1 of this year. However, the U.S. District Court in Vermont has prevented the flawed pricing rule from being implemented by issuing a 30 day temporary restraining order on Secretary Glickman's final rule. The court finds that the Secretary's final order and decision violates Congress' mandate under the Agriculture Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 and the plaintiffs who represent the dairy farmers
would suffer immediate and irreparable injury from implementation of the Secretary's final decision.
The temporary restraining order issued by the U.S. district court has given Congress valuable additional time to correct Secretary Glickman's rule.
We must act now. With the help of the court, Congress can now bring fairness to America's dairy farmer and consumers.
Instead of costing dairy farmers millions of dollars in lost income, Congress should take immediate action by extending the dairy compact and choosing Option 1-A.
The Agriculture appropriations bill which includes billions of dollars in disaster aid seemed like the logical place to include provisions that would help one of this country's most important agricultural resources without any cost to the Federal Government.
Giving farmers and consumers a reliable pricing structure and giving the States the right to work together at no cost to the Federal Government to maintain a fresh supply of local milk is a noble idea, and it is a basic law of this Nation.
It is an idea that Congress should be working towards. Instead, a few Members in both the House and Senate continue to block the progress and interest of both consumers and dairy farmers.
This Congress has made its intention abundantly clear with regard to what is needed for the new dairy pricing rules. Sixty-one Senators and more than 240 House Members signed letters to Secretary Glickman last year supporting what is known as Option 1-A, for the pricing of fluid milk.
On August 4 of this year, you will recall the Senate could not end a filibuster from the Members of the upper Midwest, but did get 53 votes, showing a majority of the Senate supports Option 1-A and keeping the Northeast Dairy Compact operating. Most recently, the House passed their version of Option 1-A by a vote of 285 to 140.
Both the House and Senate have given a majority vote on this issue. Thus, I felt very hopeful that its inclusion would have been secured in the Agriculture appropriations bill or some other place.
Thanks to the leadership of Chairman COCHRAN, the Senate stood firm on these important dairy provisions in conference. For days he worked hard to hold the line to include these. His farmers should be very appreciative of his efforts to bring about another compact of a demonstration program for the Southeast. The Southeast is another special area of the country that needs help just to organize their pricing system better to help farmers survive.
Although the House would not allow the provisions to move forward, both Chairman COCHRAN and Senator SPECTER led the fight for the dairy provisions. Farmers from Mississippi and Pennsylvania should be proud of the work and commitment of their Senators.
In fact, dairy farmers throughout the country should be thankful for the tremendous support their livelihoods have received from Chairman COCHRAN, Senator SPECTER, Senator BOND, and others on the Agriculture appropriations conference. Since then, there have been opportunities supported by the Senate to extend the compact and both times it failed because of lack of support in the other body.
With the Senate's leadership, the dairy provisions had a fighting chance in the conference committee. Unfortunately, time and time again House Members rebutted our efforts to include Option 1-A and include our dairy compacts in this bill.
If not for the actions of the House conferees dairy farmers could embrace this bill.
The October 1, 1999, deadline for implementation of the Secretary's rule has come and gone, but with the help of the district court, Congress still has time to act.
We must seize this opportunity to correct the Secretary of Agriculture's flawed pricing rules and at the same time maintain the ability of the States to help protect their farmers, without additional cost to the Federal Government, through compacts.
I understand the significance of the disaster aid in this bill and do not want to prevent the farmers and ranchers throughout the country from receiving this aid. However, in order to protect dairy farmers in my State, as well as farmers throughout the country, I most oppose this bill.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Mr. DORGAN addressed the Chair.
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I will be very brief. The Senator from New York and the Senator from North Dakota want to speak.
On a personal level, I thank Senator COCHRAN from Mississippi for his fine work.
I am sympathetic to what my colleagues from the Northeast have to say. They do not believe they really have been in the picture when it comes to disaster relief. I make a commitment, as a Senator from the Midwest, to fight very hard with them to do better on disaster relief before we leave here over the next 4 weeks or 5 weeks. As a matter of fact, I have a lot of concerns about this disaster relief bill as well and this financial package. I am not sure the farmers in northwest Minnesota are
going to figure in. We have had a lot of wet weather. They haven't been able to plant their crops.
I am very worried that they actually are not going to get this disaster assistance. I also worry about the formula. Altogether, this is an $8.7 billion relief package. I worry about the way in which it is delivered. As I have said before, I think the AMTA payments all too often go to those least in need without enough going to those most in need.
Finally, on the negative side, this is all a very painful way of acknowledging that our farm policy is not working. It is a price crisis. Our farmers can't make it on these prices. We are going to lose a whole generation of producers unless we get the loan rate up and get prices up and unless we have a moratorium on these acquisitions and mergers. I am determined to have a vote on the moratorium bill. I am determined to have a vote on doing something to get the prices up for family farmers. That
is what speaks to the root of this crisis, which is a very painful economic crisis and a very painful personal crisis because an awful lot of good people are being driven off the land. The only thing this does is enable people to live to maybe farm another day.
I say one more time to the majority leader, I want the opportunity to come out with amendments and legislation that will alleviate some of this pain and suffering. I know other Senators feel the same way.
Finally, I think I lean heavily toward voting for this only because we need to get some assistance out to people. In Redwood County, which has really been through it, we get about $23 million more to cover production losses in beans and corn from AMTA payments. I am told by Tracy Beckman, who directs our FSA office, that Minnesota will receive about $620 million in AMTA payments to be distributed to about 62,000 eligible producers.
I don't think this emergency financial package is anywhere near close to perfect. I think it is flawed in a number of ways. I think we are going to have to do better on disaster relief. But I desperately want to get some help out to people. I think at least this is a step in that direction. We all can come back over the next couple of weeks and do more.
I yield the floor.
Mr. COCHRAN addressed the Chair.
Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, under the authority of the leadership, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I have received a number of letters from farm organizations and other groups supporting the adoption of the conference report or supporting invoking cloture so we can get to consideration of this conference report. Included among these groups are the American Farm Bureau Federation, asking for a vote on cloture this afternoon; the National Corn Growers Association; the National Association of Wheat Growers; the U.S. Rice Producers Association; the American Soybean Association; International Dairy
Foods Association; the National Barley Growers Association; the Louisiana Cotton Producers Association, and others.
I ask unanimous consent that all of these letters be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the letters were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Park Ridge, IL, October 12, 1999.
DEAR SENATOR: The American Farm Bureau Federation supports passage of H.R. 1906, the conference report on FY 2000 Agriculture Appropriations. We urge you to vote for cloture this afternoon.
We are thankful to the members of the conference committee for their diligent work in securing much needed financial assistance for farmers who are suffering from this year's devastating drought and low commodity prices.
However, we remain disappointed by the process which rendered inadequate levels of funding for weather disaster assistance, excluded trade sanctions reform and did not make needed changes in dairy policy. We appreciate the efforts of members of the House and Senate who worked for these needed changes.
Farm Bureau will continue to work to secure these beneficial changes in farm policy.
Washington, DC, October 8, 1999.
Hon. CHARLES S. ROBB,
U.S. Senate, Russell Building,
DEAR SENATOR ROBB. On behalf of the 30,000 members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), I strongly urge the United States Senate to pass the fiscal year 2000 agriculture appropriations conference report. America's farmers are facing Depression-era low prices and the political posturing that continues to delay delivery of the desperately needed $8.6 billion farm assistance package puts these farmers at risk.
I cannot stress enough the importance of this farm aid package and the importance of its timely passage. In many cases, the market loss assistance payment will be the only way many of our farmers will meet their end-of-year expenses.
The NCGA urges Congress to vote ``aye'' on cloture, preventing an impending filibuster from further delaying the bill, and vote ``aye'' on final passage. Acting immediately on this bill will allow us to get this appropriations process behind us and to then turn our attention to the challenge of crafting long-term policy solutions that will restore the health of the agricultural economy and help us avoid the need for future emergency assistance packages.
NCGA looks forward to working with Congress on those long-term goals in the months to come. Thank you for your consideration.
OF WHEAT GROWERS,
Washington, DC, October 10, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR CHAIRMAN COCHRAN: As President of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), and on behalf of wheat farmers across the nation, I write to commend you and the subcommittee on your hard work in completing the FY2000 Agriculture Appropriations bill.
I believe that the emergency assistance package included in the bill will go a long way in meeting the needs of America's wheat producers. At the same time, however, I am very disappointed that the sanctions reform provisions of the Senate's version of the bill were not included in the conference report. NAWG remains committed to lifting all U.S. unilateral sanctions on food and will continue to work towards this goal.
It is my understanding that a handful of your colleagues are attempting to block the adoption of the conference report in an effort to address policy matters outside the bill's intended scope. This is unfortunate.
NAWG encourages all Senators to vote for cloture and final adoption of the conference report as soon as possible.
U.S. RICE PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION,
Houston, TX, October 1, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: The U.S. Rice Producers Association (USRPA) represents rice producers in Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, and California, as well as affiliate members that include rice millers, marketers, and other allied businesses. We are writing to express our strong support for the passage of the conference report on H.R. 1906, the fiscal year 2000 agricultural appropriations bill. While this bill is not perfect, it will help to address some of the critical concerns of American rice
producers who are facing record low prices.
Emergency Assistance: H.R. 1906 includes a package of emergency economic assistance that will be critical to the economic survival of rice producers across the nation. With prices for rice projected to fall by more than one-third compared to last year's already low prices, the enactment of this direct emergency assistance is imperative.
Equitable Marketing Loan Payments: H.R. 1906 includes a provision to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to correct the inequitable treatment received by a number of rice producers when the benchmark World Market Price for rice was significantly adjusted downward in August by the Department of Agriculture. For a number of producers, particularly in Texas and Louisiana, only the enactment of this provision can address this issue.
Comprehensive Sanctions Reform: We are disappointed that the conference report fails to enact reforms regarding our government's use of unilateral agricultural sanctions. We oppose restrictions on the free and open export of U.S. agricultural commodities that deny American farmers access to important export markets. In particular, Cuba was a very large and dependable market for U.S. rice prior to the imposition of sanctions. However, we do not believe that the failure of the bill to address the
sanctions issue should be viewed as a reason to defeat this very important bill.
As such, we urge you and your colleagues to vote for final passage of the conference report on H.R. 1906.
Dennis R. DeLaughter,
AMERICAN SOYBEAN ASSOCIATION,
October 8, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: On behalf of the American Soybean Association (ASA), I would like to express our strong support for immediate passage of the Conference Report on agricultural appropriations for FY-2000. Favorable consideration of this important legislation is even more urgent since it will provide emergency relief for producers of soybeans and other commodities who are suffering from historic low prices and from severe crop losses.
U.S. soybean farmers have seen prices fall 32% in the past three years, to a season average level of $5.00 per bushel for the 1999 crop, according to USDA. This represents a decline of $4.4 billion in the value of this year's harvest, compared to 1996.
While sluggish foreign demand is partly responsible for lower prices, another factor is the increase in U.S. soybean production under ``Freedom to Farm.'' Since 1996, soybean plantings rose eight million acres, or 12%, from 66 to 74 million acres. This increase has disadvantaged traditional soybean producers, and particularly those who do not receive large payments under the AMTA formula.
With Congress prepared to again provide supplemental AMTA assistance to offset low prices received by producers of former program crops, ASA is pleased that the farm relief package includes $475 million to partially compensate producers of soybeans and other oilseeds. This amount will add an estimated 15 cents per bushel to farmers' income from the sale of this year's soybean crop and from marketing loan gains or Loan Deficiency Payments. ASA would like to express appreciation to you for your
leadership in including and retaining this provision in the final Conference Report.
Washington, DC, October 8, 1999.
DEAR SENATOR: Next Tuesday, you will be asked to vote on cloture to stop a filibuster of the final agriculture appropriations conference report as some members seek to force inclusion of controversial dairy compacts in the bill. Without question, dairy compacts artificially inflate milk prices, under the guise of helping dairy farmers.
Now is not the time to hold up this agriculture appropriations bill--which includes important farm relief measures. And it certainly isn't the time to unnecessarily increase milk prices to consumers.
Attached are numerous editorials from across the nation that strongly urge Congress to reject higher milk prices, and let [Page: S12414]
modest free market reforms stabilize the industry. We urge you to vote for cloture and let the agriculture appropriations process move forward.
Constance E. Tipton,
Senior Vice President.
Alexandria, VA, October 12, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR CHAIRMAN COCHRAN: On behalf of barley producers from across the United States, I am writing to urge Congress to expedite approval of the conference report for FY2000 agricultural appropriations (H.R. 1906). While the conference process was clearly imperfect and barley growers are frustrated by the refusal of the congressional leadership to allow conferees to consider provisions to enact much-needed reforms to US sanctions policy, this package contains several provisions of critical
importance to barley producers and to the entire agricultural community. It is important that this package be approved immediately.
As such, barley growers urge you and your colleagues to vote for final passage of the conference report on H.R. 1906.
JACK Q. PETTUS,
Washington DC Representative.
Monroe, LA, October 11, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
U.S. Senate, Senate Russell Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR SENATOR COCHRAN: The Louisiana Cotton Producers Association strongly supports passage of the FY 2000 Ag Appropriations Bill. The financial aid provided for in this bill will to a large degree be the only means by which many are able to hold onto the family farm. Your leadership and support for agriculture is well documented and greatly appreciated.
I look forward to our continued partnership in 2000 as we attempt to improve upon a farm bill that is in dire need of reform.
JON W. ``JAY'' HARDWICK.
NATIONAL GRAIN SORGHUM PRODUCERS,
Abernathy, TX, October 8, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR CHAIRMAN COCHRAN: On behalf of the National Grain Sorghum Producers we urge you to support the Agriculture Appropriations Bill as presented by the Conference and approved by the House.
Farmers across the United States need these funds now.
AMERICAN SUGAR ALLIANCE,
Washington, DC, October 8, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
DEAR SENATOR COCHRAN: The associations listed below, representing U.S. sugarbeet and sugarcane farmers, processors, and refiners, unanimously support the Agricultural Appropriations Bill Conference Report.
We thank you for your unfailingly support for American production agriculture and we look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
American Sugarbeet Growers Association; American Sugar Cane League; Florida Sugar Cane League; Gay & Robinson, Hawaii; Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers; Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida; United States Beet Sugar Association.
Washington, DC, October 12, 1999.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12 CLOTURE VOTE ON AG APPROPRIATIONS: VOTE YES ON INVOKING CLOTURE--VOTE YES ON FINAL PASSAGE
DEAR SENATOR: The FY 2000 Agriculture Appropriations Bill provides needed assistance to U.S. agriculture, including restoration of funds for the cotton competitiveness program, and we urge you to support the conference report. Specifically, we urge you to vote YES on Tuesday, October 12 on the motion to invoke cloture on consideration of this bill, and to vote YES on final passage of the conference agreement.
Funding for ``Step 2'' of the cotton competitiveness program was capped in the 1996 farm bill and the program ran out of funds in December of 1998, resulting in an immediate and sharp decline in already low raw cotton prices. As we have indicated to you previously, the surge over the last few years in cheap imports from China and other nations of the Far East, in large part because of Asia's economic difficulties, has had a severe impact on the American textile industry. Restoration of funding
for Step 2 will help offset some of this damage by making the U.S. cotton and U.S. textile industries more competitive with foreign manufacturers.
As a final point, we understand and sympathize with the concerns of Senators from dairy producing states. However, we strongly urge that these issues be dealt with in an expeditious manner without holding up this badly needed agriculture spending bill. Please do everything you can to achieve such an outcome which will address the needs of dairy producers without holding American textile manufacturers and cotton producers hostage. We need this conference report to be signed into law as quickly
Executive Vice President.
Bakersfield, CA, October 11, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Russell Senate Office Building,
DEAR SENATOR COCHRAN: First, I want to thank you for all of your efforts to get the agricultural assistance package to where it is today. Calcot's membership, which totals over 2000 members who grow almost 50 percent of the cotton in Arizona and California, fully support the conference bill.
Growers are distressed at the delay in getting the conference passed by the Senate. Hopefully, the cloture vote tomorrow afternoon will be successful and this bill can be forwarded to the President shortly after that. Growers desperately need the benefits provided in the assistance package, and we really need Step 2 to prevent the loss of further sales of cotton.
Again, we appreciate your efforts to provide this package, but we need it passed by the Senate and signed by the President at the earliest possible date.
USA RICE FEDERATION,
Arlington, VA, October 8, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: On behalf of the USA Rice Federation, we want to express our support for the FY 2000 Agricultural Appropriations Conference Report. The programs funded by this legislation, and especially the economic assistance package, are urgently needed by America's farmers who are suffering a crisis due to low prices and weather-related disasters.
We urge you and other members of the Senate to support the Report and its quick implementation.
A. Ellen Terpstra,
President and Chief Executive Officer.
[News From Independent Community Bankers of America]
ICBA Welcomes House Passage of Farm Relief Package
Washington, DC. (Oct. 1, 1999)--The Independent Community Bankers of America today welcomed the House of Representatives passage of H.R. 1906, the Fiscal Year 2000 Ag Appropriations bill on a 246-183 vote.
``The $8.7 billion bill will provide much needed economic assistance to struggling farmers who are trying to generate positive cash flows and repay their operating credit as well as plan for new loans. Congress will need to also consider providing additional funds to provide payments for disaster losses and additional money to ensure adequate guaranteed loan funding is available,'' said ICBA President Bob Barseness.
``While we realize the bill has generated considerable controversy lately, we are hopeful Congress will provide this much needed financial assistance to our farmers as soon as possible.'' ICBA added.
NATIONAL PEANUT GROWERS GROUP,
Gorman, TX, October 12, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies, Senate Appropriations Committee, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: The National Peanut Growers Group is a coalition representing peanut growers across the United States. We appreciate very much your hard work in developing the Fiscal Year 2000 Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill. You have always supported our industry.
The bill contains several key provisions that assist peanut growers. In addition to important peanut research projects, the bill provides approximately $45 million in direct disaster payments to peanut growers based on the 1999 peanut crop.
Language was also added during the Conference that requests the Secretary of Agriculture use peanut growers marketing assessment monies to offset potential program losses in the 1999 peanut crop.
We support the FY 2000 Agriculture Appropriations bill and urge its immediate passage.
AMERICAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION,
Washington, DC, October 12, 1999.
Hon. THAD COCHRAN,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR SENATOR COCHRAN: On behalf of the American Bankers Association (ABA), I am writing to express our support for the FY [Page: S12415]
2000 Agricultural Appropriations Conference Report (HR 1906). The ABA represents all categories of banking institutions which includes community, regional and money center banks and holding companies as well as savings associations, trust companies and savings banks. Our members are deeply concerned about the future of our
agricultural and rural borrowers.
At the end of 1998, our members had over $70 billion in outstanding loans to farm and ranch customers. We provide American agriculture with the credit needed to produce our nation's safe and abundant food and fiber.
We join you in supporting the Conference Report because it will address the emergency needs of this vital national industry. Our nation's farmers and ranchers have been battered by low prices and, in some areas, by severe weather conditions. Many of our farmers and ranchers are losing hope and are deciding to leave agriculture.
For many of these farmers and ranchers the FY 2000 Agricultural Appropriations Conference Report can make the critical difference between staying on the farm or leaving it forever. We thank you for supporting the legislation, and we urge you to impress on your colleagues the urgent need to pass the legislation as quickly as possible.
Floyd E. Stoner.
Mr. CONRAD addressed the Chair.
Mr. CONRAD. I thank the Chair.
Mr. President, I rise to urge my colleagues to support the cloture vote this afternoon. I acknowledge the work of our colleague, Senator COCHRAN, and our colleague, Senator KOHL, who are the chairman and ranking member of this committee. I have found in my time in the Senate that Senator COCHRAN is a very fair man. He is somebody who keeps his word. He always has time to listen. I appreciate that very much. I also appreciate the difficulty he has, along with Senator KOHL,
in bringing this bill to the floor. This is not easy to do. It is a very difficult thing year after year, to deal with all of our colleagues on these very contentious issues. I thank my colleague, Senator COCHRAN, for his patience more than anything else because he has certainly demonstrated that. I also thank Senator KOHL because he has also listened carefully to the needs of our colleagues from around the country.
I represent one of the most agricultural States in the Nation. My producers there have been hit by a triple whammy of bad prices, bad weather, and bad policy. The prices are the lowest they have been in real terms in over 50 years. There is a price collapse occurring that is putting enormous financial pressure on our producers.
Bad weather. I guess the simple fact that we had 3 million acres in the State of North Dakota not even planted this year tells a story, not because it was too dry but because it was too wet. What an extraordinary circumstance. Back in 1988 and 1989, we had the worst drought since the 1930s. Now we have the wettest conditions in 100 years. Everywhere you go in North Dakota, at least in a big chunk of our State, there is nothing but water. Who could have believed this dramatic change? And we are
hurt by bad trade policy and bad agriculture policy that has further burdened producers.
There are several parts of this package that I think are critically important. The 100-percent AMTA supplemental payment is going to mean that a North Dakota wheat farmer, instead of getting a transition payment of 64 cents a bushel on wheat, is going to get $1.28. It may not sound like much to many of my colleagues, and it isn't much in the great scheme of things. That is going to make the difference between literally thousands of farm families having to be forced off the land and being able
to survive for another year. That is critically important.
Second, there is a 30-percent crop insurance discount. That is very important because we have not devised a crop insurance system that can work for the farmers of this country.
So those are two important provisions. They deserve our support.
As soon as I am positive about this bill, I also want to point out those parts of the bill that are deficient
because there is inadequate disaster assistance in this bill. There is not enough money for those who are victims of Hurricane Floyd; there is not enough money for those who are the victims of the drought in the eastern part of the United States; there is not enough money for those farmers in my State who have been flooded out. These are farmers who didn't take a 30-percent loss or a 40-percent loss; they took a 100-percent loss because their land is under water.
Mr. President, we have to do better. We will have a further opportunity to do so in the legislative process later this year. I hope very much we will do that. But right now, the right vote is to vote for cloture.
I thank the Chair and I yield the floor.
Mr. SCHUMER addressed the Chair.
Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I know we are close to running out of time. I will use my leader time to make a few comments on the pending conference report.
I come to the same conclusion as the distinguished Senator from Iowa, and I would like to elaborate, if I could, briefly on why I have come to that conclusion.
I believe we ought to be supportive of this conference report, but I must say I am deeply disappointed that we have to be in this position in the first place. This is a badly flawed bill from many perspectives. I strongly disagree with using the AMTA mechanism as the only mechanism by which we provide resources to those in need. As a result of our reliance on AMTA, there will be thousands of people no longer directly involved in agriculture who are going to get payments of over five and a half
billion dollars. Our view is that that is a tragedy, given the limited resources we have available to us and the extraordinary need to ensure that resources are spent in the most prudent fashion.
They will not be, in large measure, because of the formula incorporated in this language.
I also am very deeply concerned about the fact that there is no loan availability in this bill. There are going to be farmers who are going to be turned away from banks throughout the country. When they are turned away, as is happening on many occasions, farmers go to the Farm Service Agency to ensure they can get the resources they need.
Let us be clear. There is no recourse as a result of this legislation. Farmers have no opportunity to get alternative loan availability because there is no money in this bill for loans. For that reason, too, I am very concerned about the deficiencies in this legislation.
As most of us know, we have lost a substantial number of our pork producers. The number of pork producers in South Dakota has diminished substantially in recent years. In fact, we have lost a large portion of the percentage of our hog producers in the last year in large measure because of the disastrous crisis they are now facing. There is not $1 in here for livestock producers involved in pork production. As a result, our pork producers have no hope of obtaining any kind of assistance as a result
of this legislation.
I must say we also are deeply concerned about the impact this legislation could have, if this is the last word on the circumstances those in the Northeast currently are facing. They have experienced serious drought. Other parts of the country have faced other serious farm disasters. The disaster assistance in this package is absolutely unacceptable. The $1.2 billion is a fraction of what will be required if we are going to meet all of the obligations this country should and must meet to address
disaster needs, especially in the Northeast, in the coming 12 months. We have an extraordinary deficiency with regard to disaster assistance.
As a result of that as well, I am deeply troubled that we are faced with a very untenable choice: vote for this, and get some assistance out to those who will receive it, in time for it to do some good, or do nothing and hope that somehow in some way at some time we can resolve this matter before the end of the session.
I sadly come to the conclusion that what we have to do is take what we can get now, to take what we have been able to put in the bank now, and keep fighting to address all of these deficiencies before the end of this session. I have said just now to my colleagues in the Northeast that we will not rest, we will not be satisfied until we have adequately addressed their needs in disaster assistance before the end of this session. We will make that point with whatever vehicles we have available to
us, appropriations or otherwise. It is absolutely essential that we provide that assistance before the end of this year and send a clear message that we understand the gravity of their circumstances and are prepared to address it.
I might also say that we have to look also at an array of policy considerations. My view is that we are in this box in large measure because we created it ourselves. Those who voted for Freedom to Farm are coming to the realization that clearly this is a situation that has to be resolved through public policy, in new farm policy, with the creation of a safety net, with the creation of market incentives to create more of a balance between supply and demand than what we have right now.
That is a debate for another day. We are left with a choice about whether or not we provide $8.7 billion in aid now, as poor as the vehicle may be, to people who need it so badly. I will vote yes, and I encourage my colleagues to do likewise.
I yield the floor.
Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a copy of a letter addressed to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee strongly endorsing the method of payment used for the disaster assistance portion of this bill from the American Soybean Association and other groups be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Hon. TED STEVENS,
Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee, Washington, DC.
DEAR CHAIRMAN STEVENS: We are well aware that some have encouraged conferees on the FY00 agricultural appropriations bill to use alternative forms of funding emergency farm income disaster assistance rather [Page: S12417]
than supplemental Agricultural Market Transition Act (AMTA) payments.
In Secretary Glickman's September 15 testimony before the House Agricultural Committee, he says ``To be sure, there is an immediate need to provide cash assistance to mitigate low prices, falling incomes, and in some areas, falling land values. Congress should enact a new program to target assistance to farmers of 1999 crops suffering from low prices. The Administration believes the income assistance component must address the shortcomings of the farm bill by providing counter-cyclical assistance.''
He goes on to say, ``The income assistance should compensate for today's low prices and therefore they should be paid according to this year's actual production of the major field crops, including oilseeds, not a formula based on an artificial calculation done a decade ago.''
Mr. Chairman, we strongly disagree with that philosophy. The current economic distress is partly a result of the unfulfilled promises of expanded export markets, reduced regulations, and tax reform that were part of the promises made during deliberation of the 1996 farm bill. The costs of these unfulfilled promises fall upon those people who were participating in farm programs at that time.
The AMTA payment process is in place and can deliver payments quickly. The administrative costs of developing an alternative method of payments would be very high and eat into funds that should go to farmers. Given the 7 1/2 months it took the Department to issue weather disaster aid last year, we are unwilling to risk that producers might have to wait that long for development and implementation of a new farm economy disaster aid formula. Time is also critical for suppliers of goods and services
to producers. They need payments for supplies now to stay in business, not just promises that something will happen in the future.
Supplemental AMTA payments provide income to producers of corn, wheat, cotton, rice, barley, and grain sorghum. Soybean producers will receive separate payments under the Senate Agricultural Appropriations language. Crop cash receipts for these producers in 1999 will be down over 20 percent from the 1995-97 yearly average. Producers who have smaller than normal crops due to weather problems will receive normal payment levels. This is better than using the loan deficiency payment program (LDPs)
which are directly tied to this year's production.
We urge you to retain the $5.5 billion in supplemental AMTA payments as the method of distribution for farm economy aid in the agricultural appropriations conference agreement. Any alternative would certainly take additional time to provide assistance to producers--time which we cannot afford.
American Farm Bureau Federation; American Soybean Association; National Association of Wheat Growers; National Corn Growers Association; Nation Cotton Council; National Grain Sorghum Producers; National Sunflower Association; U.S. Canola Association; USA Rice Federation.
FREEMAN LAKE DAM
Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, on behalf of the leader, I will propound the following unanimous consent request which has been cleared, I am told, on both sides of the aisle. It relates to the further handling of the Agriculture conference report.
I ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding rule XXII, at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday there be up to 5 hours equally divided for debate between Senator COCHRAN and the minority manager or his designee, with an additional hour under the control of Senator WELLSTONE, on the Agriculture appropriations conference report, and that following the use or yielding back of time, the Senate proceed to vote on adoption of the conference report without any intervening action or debate.
Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, I have been authorized, on behalf of the leader, to announce, for the information of all Senators, there will be no more votes tonight.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.