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Remarks at a Bill Signing Ceremony for S. 3447 in Wichita, Kansas

October 21, 1978

As I said in the other room, with a peanut farmer in the White House and a dairy farmer in the statehouse, I think the Kansas farmers will at least have very strong voices in State and Federal Government.

There's no doubt that agriculture is the stable element in our Nation's economy. And quite often in the past it's not been adequately recognized.

This morning I come before you to sign a very important piece of legislation. Last October we put into effect the agricultural bill, an omnibus bill of 1977. There have been substantial improvements already in the income level of American farmers and also in the level of exports. But I have felt with increasingly bountiful harvests, which have been very obvious this year throughout the country, that even greater emphasis ought to be placed on exports.

Last year we had very low farm prices, as you know. But in spite of those very low prices per unit, we had the highest export level in the history of our country, about $24 billion. This year we've increased it even more to about $26.6 billion. But the Congress has worked very well—as you know, Dan Glickman is a member of that committee—in describing some of the problems in increasing agricultural exports in the future.

In the first place, we do not have competitive trade offices around the world to sell our agricultural products. When I was Governor of Georgia, we had—just one State—six different international trade offices located in different capitals and trade centers around the world—in Rio de Janeiro, in Sao Paulo in Brazil, in Bonn, Germany, in Brussels, Belgium, and Toronto, Canada, and so forth—just to sell Georgia products. And the Congress has now well recognized that we don't have that same capability of having trade offices where you have a merchant there whose sole responsibility is to sell American agricultural products. And in the future we will have this capability.

The Congress mandated between 6 and 25 trade offices to be established under the Department of Agriculture to sell American farm products in a competitive way in the future.

Another thing that we decided to do in this legislation is to give special loans, well-secured loans, from 3 years up to 10 years to establish grain reserves that might enhance the shipment of American grain overseas, to be sure that we had breeder livestock sales, to increase the export of our American beef and pork and poultry. We've not been competitive in exports of livestock in the past. Other countries have, as you well know.

And also to provide marketing facilities. There are some nations that want to buy our products. They don't have an easy or convenient way to unload wheat or corn or sorghum in their dockyards. And so, we can give short loans now for these countries, well secured, they're not giveaway programs to let them buy our agricultural products.

We are increasing the stature of the representatives of the Agriculture Department in our consulates and in our embassies around the world so that they can have a higher level of authority in pursuing their single purpose of increasing American markets overseas.

Another thing that we've tried to do is to increase the possibility of nations to buy American products.

We've changed recently the right of the Soviet Union to buy from 8 million metric tons of grain up to 15 million metric tons of grain without going through the procedure of getting approval for it. We've got the grain on hand. We want the Soviets to buy it:

And as you know, one of the things that has devastated our markets in the past have been embargoes imposed by previous administrations. As long as I'm in the White House there are not going to be any embargoes to prevent the shipment of American products overseas.

And just one other point that I believe is important. We have also authorized short-term CCC loans to the People's Republic of China to buy American wheat, sorghum, and corn. In the past we have lost this tremendous market completely. One out of four people on Earth live in the People's Republic of China. And they've been going to Canada, going to Australia, going to Argentina, going to Brazil, buying beans, corn, and wheat. They have not bought any from us in the past. In the future we hope to open that market as well.

So, what we are trying to do is to join in with you in letting the Federal Government, for a change, not be an obstacle to the sale of American farm products, but to be an avenue by which that sale might be enhanced, because we don't want a surplus to accumulate here in our country that forces the price down, and I don't want to put a constraint on American farmers about what you can produce.

I want to get the Government's nose out of the farmers' business rather than stick it deeper into the farmers' business. And I think this is a very good approach that the Congress has done.

Jim Cramer was in the White House, I think last Valentine's Day, representing the American farm movement, to add his voice to the counsel and advice, along with many others, on what we ought to do to improve American markets. This is one of the things that has resulted from his visit there. And I want to express my appreciation to him personally and to all of you who have helped me.

This is the second bill that I've ever signed outside Washington. The other one was when I went to New York to sign a bill to try to keep New York out of bankruptcy. [Laughter] But this is not designed to keep American farmers out of bankruptcy, because you're no longer on the verge of bankruptcy. But this is to make your lives more profitable in the future.

And it's a great pleasure for me as President of the United States to come to Wichita, Kansas, to sign into law a bill that will give us a greatly enhanced opportunity in the future to sell the superb products that you produce so well in your great State.

Thank you very much.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Well, we've got a new law.

Note: The President spoke at 1:21 p.m. in Meeting Room 201 at the Century II Convention Center. Jim Cramer is the Kansas delegate to the American Agriculture Movement.

As enacted, S. 3447, the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978, is Public Law 95-501, approved October 21.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Bill Signing Ceremony for S. 3447 in Wichita, Kansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244258

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