THE PRESIDENT. I think all of you can see before me the results of a tremendous amount of work and cooperation among all those in our Government who are interested in the present and future strength of our Nation's number one economic resource, and that's agriculture.
I think it's also accurate to point out that more than has ever been the case in the past, that professional nutritionists and their representatives, private citizens, consumer groups, have been involved in the preparation of this legislation.
Another fact that I think would be undisputed is that in the last 40 years, there has never been such a far-reaching and important piece of legislation passed relating to American agriculture. There's been a heavy emphasis in this bill on the strength of the American farm family. This is an important concept for us all.
We are very eager to continue our preeminent position in international agricultural trade circles. Public Law 480, which permits us to dispose of American food products in a beneficial way, is enhanced. Foreign trade with the sale of our own agricultural commodities is enhanced.
We have in this bill, too, a new approach to the food stamp question. This has sometimes been considered as an anomaly or an anachronism in a modern day Department of Agriculture. But I think this legislation that has been included in the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 is a great step forward in providing a simple food stamp system and one that would be easy to administer, one that is more equitable, which eliminates the pervasive threat of fraud.
I'd also like to point out that this bill includes many other features--a renewed emphasis and an enhancement of our research program in agriculture that's so important to every family.
It, for the first time, makes a major step toward tying target prices to actual production costs. This has been one of the most controversial issues that the Congress has had to face. Obviously, because production costs vary so widely from one community to another, and a bill of this kind has to deal with average prices or cost of production throughout the country, there still remain and will inevitably remain some inequities.
But this bill makes a giant step toward tying target prices with production costs, and it also narrows its focus on individual commodities so that there can be more equity insured.
This bill also sets up a means for maintaining adequate food reserves. Although we have been blessed recently with bountiful crops, we don't have an excessive reserve supply of crucial food and feed items on hand. This bill permits us to maintain adequate reserves, and it also encompasses a provision that's very dear to me, and that is that most of the reserves will be under the control of farmers and that there's a very careful safeguard against the dumping of agricultural products on the market, artificially, to force prices down and, therefore, to damage the economy of farm families.
We have moved in this bill to correct a very serious economic problem that exists among the farm communities of our Nation by increasing target and loan prices for the 1977 crop. And I believe that this will certainly be a good investment both this year and in the future.
Another aspect of this bill that particularly ,appeals to me is the reduction of Government interference in the agricultural economy. This is always devoutly to be sought, and I think the Congress has very wisely achieved this goal in this current legislation.
We've eliminated acreage allotments. Quite often in the past, acreage allotments historically have evolved into a financial measure of the benefit of Government programs, and they are bought and traded like actual property. This bill moves to eliminate those acreage allotments.
We've also maintained an important element in the set-aside authority for the Agriculture Secretary. And very shortly now, set-aside regulations will be promulgated by this Department.
I have to admit that the bill is about $300 million more costly than I had personally preferred to see. But I think the investment is a good one. And I think the cost of this bill, because of its wise drafting, will be less and less as the future years go by.
We have an exceptional case at the present time in agriculture, where additional expenditures are required. One of the elements of agricultural legislation and appropriations which is often overlooked is that at least half the costs that are normally attributed to an agricultural bill are actually in the form of redeemable loans. And this is not an expenditure from the Federal Government; it's an investment in a very good and sound commodity. The loan is secured and the loans are repaid, but under our present accounting system, this is identified as an expenditure, and it tends to distort in the public mind the degree of Federal investment in agriculture.
I'd like to close by saying that I'm very proud of the good work that has been done this year, and in years gone by, by Senator Talmadge, the chairman of the Senate committee and, of course, by Tom Foley and Bob Poage and all those Democrats and Republicans who've worked with them, both within the committee and on the floor of Congress.
These have been tedious studies and negotiations. Bob Bergland and his staff in the Department of Agriculture have worked very harmoniously with the congressional leaders. And as the President of our country, as a farmer myself, as someone who feels a direct responsibility to the consumers of this country, I'm very proud now to affix my signature onto the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 and ratify into law one of the most progressive and far-reaching pieces of legislation that has come before me.
Thank you very much, all of you.
Unaccustomed as he is to public speaking, I would still like to ask Senator Talmadge to say just a word, if he would. [Laughter]
SENATOR HERMAN E. TALMADGE. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I think you've correctly summarized the purpose of the Agriculture Act of 1977 and properly paid respect to Bob Bergland, Tom Foley, all the members of the committee, your staff in the White House who worked so very cooperatively and so diligently in formulating this legislation. It's a big asset to the American people, and to the world, for that matter.
THE PRESIDENT. I certainly agree with that, Senator.
Chairman Tom Foley.
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS S. FOLEY. Mr. President, I can only echo those remarks of Senator Talmadge and express our deep appreciation to you and to the Secretary and to all of those in your administration who have worked so cooperatively with all of those members of the committee, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, to bring this bill about. And I want to also say that I join with you in expressing appreciation to Bob Poage, the vice chairman of our committee and a man who I think on our side represents the most skilled and knowledgeable single Member of the House of Representatives in agriculture. He's leaving us next year when he retires, but he takes with him all of our good wishes and thanks for all he has done on this bill and every other bill in agriculture.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I know that all of you in the audience and in the press are very eager to read this legislation in detail. [Laughter] And I would like very much to have your comments about it after you've read it word by word. It's an exciting document and one that I think is going to be a great boon not only to American family farmers but to everyone who consumes our products.
Thank you very much.