Remarks to the Farm Journal Forum
Well, thank you so very much for that warm welcome. And it is great to be here with the farmers and ranchers and researchers and business leaders who make America the most innovative and most productive farm nation in the world.
I am somewhat nostalgic for our place in Crawford. But I've been a little busy lately. [Laughter] I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak about the future of agriculture and the future of our economy, because they both begin with your work. I want to thank Andy for providing this opportunity for me to come and speak.
And I want to thank our Secretary of Agriculture for doing such a fine job of not only representing farmers and ranchers here at home but doing a fine job of making sure our farmers and ranchers are heard overseas, as well. She and Bob Zoellick went to Doha. I told them, "No longer are we going to treat our farmers as trading commodities." Agriculture is the cornerstone of our economy, and our international agreements must reflect that. And so, Madam Secretary, thank you for your hard work in Doha. I appreciate it very much.
The success of agriculture contributes to the strength of this Nation. It is in our national interests, in our national security interests that we have a strong farm economy. And the farmers of America contribute to the values of our Nation and to the generosity of our Nation. As we speak, trucks and planes are delivering American food to the hungry in Afghanistan. Those rations say, "A gift from the people of the United States." This gift is made possible by the farmers in our country, and I want to thank you for it.
The farmers represent and preserve the values of our Nation: hard work, risktaking, love of the land. I always like to say people who own their own land understand the necessity to be good stewards; every day is Earth Day if you own your own land. The farmers represent love of family and love of our country. And farming is our first industry, the industry that feeds us, that clothes us and, increasingly, provides our energy.
As Andy mentioned, I was the Governor of the State of Texas; it happens to be the second largest agricultural State in the country. I understand how tough it is to make a living on the farm. I understand how much hard work goes into making the land productive. And I understand how valuable an asset land is and how important it is that it stay from one generation to the next. And that's why I'm glad to have signed a law that is sending the death tax on its way to extinction.
Today, our Nation is challenged by a great conflict. We face new threats, and they require a fight on many fronts, both overseas and here at home. After September the 11th, I vowed to the world that we would bring to justice those who killed innocent women and children and men here in America. I also said that any nation that harbored a terrorist, that aided a terrorist, that abetted a terrorist would be held accountable, and that's exactly what's taking place today. Thanks to our military, thanks to friends and allies, we are destroying the Taliban military, and we're destroying the camps that terrorists use to plan attacks on nations such as America.
We're meeting our goals in Afghanistan. After all, our allies now control most of the country. One of the objectives I laid out in front of Congress is that we would rescue those who were held, detained against their will. And so I had the honor last Monday of welcoming two young Baylor graduates to the White House, part of the humanitarian rescue mission that we pulled off successfully.
As I mentioned, we're feeding the hungry and providing medicine and clothes to those poor, suffering, innocent citizens of Afghanistan. And we're after Al Qaida. The evil ones think they can hide. They think they can run. But they're learning that this is a patient nation, a nation that is determined to smoke them out and to bring them to justice. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
I also recognize that we've got a war here on the homefront. And it's important for the American people to know that their Government is doing everything we possibly can to disrupt and deny the enemy, that we take every threat seriously, that we run down every lead, that we're on full alert. The thing I'm most proud of is that the American people will not be intimidated by the evil ones, that they understand that the intent of the Al Qaida murderers was to freeze our Nation in place. But they don't understand America like I do. America is resolved. We are united. And we will not relent until we make sure that those who believe they can harm our Government and our friends are brought to justice, whether it be in Afghanistan or any other place they hide.
I said, when this war first started, that the farther away we get from September the 11th, the more likely it is people will forget that there are evil ones in the world who want to destroy our country, what we stand for. And that may be the case amongst some. But that's not what I've seen in America. This Nation is resolved to do whatever it takes, in whatever theater is necessary, to make sure that civilization itself remains intact, to make sure that our children and our grandchildren can grow up in a world that is free and peaceful. It is the calling of our time, and it's a calling that we accept. And we're going to win. I view this as a fight between good and evil, and good will always prevail.
We also have difficulties here on the homefront because of our economic situation. Statistics recently showed that shortly after I was sworn in as President, our economy was slow and had been slowing for a while. I made the case—and fortunately, Congress listened—that a slow economy required immediate action when it came to tax relief, and they delivered. That's an important part of making sure that we generate growth, is to let people keep more of their hard-earned money so they can spend it, and not the Government.
And at the same time, in order to address an economic slowdown, we brought sorely needed fiscal discipline to Washington, DC, that we fought for and got a budget that was realistic, that didn't grow way beyond the means of our Government. And by the end of summer, the economy was beginning to stabilize.
Yet the terrorist attack of September the 11th, no question, dealt our economy a serious blow. So while we fight our enemies and states that harbor terrorism and while we defend our homeland and our airways, we must take further action to strengthen our economy. Americans know our economy was targeted for terror—by terror. And they're asking us to fight back, and we must.
These are incredibly tough times for some of our fellow Americans. Some have lost their jobs. Some have had their hours curtailed. Many have seen their savings shrink, and small businesses are struggling just to stay in business. We're facing tough times, but if we act quickly, I'm confident we can grow our economy.
On October the 5th, 7 weeks ago, I asked Congress to send me an economic stimulus package, and I outlined the principles that should guide the plan. First, any plan must help displaced workers. Any plan must recognize that folks have been severely hurt by the attack on September the 11th, and we must help them.
Secondly, the plan should speed up the individual income tax cuts Congress approved last May. The sooner rates come down, the faster our economy will rise. The plan should provide tax relief for low- and moderate-income workers to help them through these tough times. The plan should allow companies and entrepreneurs to deduct the cost of new investments more quickly, to encourage businesses to grow and to create job opportunities for Americans. And the plan should reform the corporate income tax to do away with the alternative minimum tax, a tax that pushes tax rates up at exactly the moment when corporate America's profits are going down.
The House of Representatives acted on a stimulus bill, but it seems to be stuck in the Senate. It is important for the Senate not to look for ways to spend new money but to look for ways to create new jobs. And so I ask the Senate leadership to work out their differences and pass an economic stimulus plan, so they can get it in conference and get a bill to my desk as quickly as possible. The American people expect it, and I expect it.
This country is waiting for action. And in the time that we have been waiting, more than 415,000 workers have lost their jobs. Further delay could put more Americans and more families at risk. So let's move. Let's get the job done.
I also want to improve our homeland security and our economy by having a national energy plan. I want to thank the Farm Journal Forum for emphasizing the importance of ethanol and biofuels. These fuels are gentle on the environment. They are fuels that can be renewed year after year and fuels that can expand our farm economy. These fuels are made right here in America, so they can't be threatened by any foreign power. Ethanol and biofuels are fuels of the future for this country.
Since the beginning of my administration, I have strongly supported ethanol and biofuels. And the energy plan I sent to Congress back in the spring supports biofuels. The House passed an energy plan. Now it's time for the Senate to act and pass an energy plan. It's in our national security interests to do so. I look forward to signing a national energy bill.
I'm also ready to sign trade promotion authority, to open up markets for American industry and American farmers. This authority sends an unmistakable signal to our trading partners that the Congress and the administration are united on trade. The House will soon vote on trade promotion authority. I hope you'll join me in pressing for its passage and, in the process, helping to restore U.S. leadership in support of free trade.
U.S. leadership matters. We recently helped bring China into the World Trade Organization, and that is good for American farmers. It is in our interests, in our agricultural interests to help feed China.
We helped start a new world trade round in Doha. Our negotiators came back from Doha with excellent news for American farmers. American farmers too often lose markets or suffer low prices because of unfair export subsidies. The Doha Declaration calls for reducing export subsidies and, ultimately, phasing them out. For too long, the agricultural market has been rigged against farmers who play fair. Doha shows the way toward a more level playing field. That's good news for the world's hungry; it's good news for the world's most productive food producers, the American farmers.
We've got a good stimulus bill, a sound energy plan, and it's important to have a good farm bill, too. A good farm bill should keep the safety net under our food producers, without misleading our farmers into overproducing crops that are already in oversupply, by increasing loan rates. A good farm bill should help farmers help themselves with farm savings accounts. These accounts would help farmers set aside money in good years to sustain them in hard times. A good farm bill should promote responsible stewardship of America's farms and ranchers by promoting conservation on working lands. A good farm bill should honor our trade obligations, as we expect our competitors to honor their obligations. And a good farm bill should be generous but affordable. It should honor the budget limits that Congress has agreed to live by.
You know, we've learned a lot about our country since September the 11th. We've learned that our people are strong, that our military is very good at what it does, and that our country's heart has never been more generous and good. And we have much to mourn and much to rebuild, but much to be grateful for.
Just a few days ago we gave thanks for God's bounty to America. But we should never forget that it takes the hard toil on the land to turn that bounty into the food we eat and that we share with the world's hungry our bounty. We should never forget who does that toil. It's the American farmer and the American rancher.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America.
NOTE: The President spoke at 1:32 p.m. in president and chief executive officer, Farm the Grand Ballroom at the JW Marriott. In Journal; and rescued humanitarian aid workhis remarks, he referred to Andrew Webber, ers Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry.
George W. Bush, Remarks to the Farm Journal Forum Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/215921