George W. Bush photo

Remarks at the Tractor Supply Company and an Exchange With Reporters in Billings, Montana

March 26, 2001

The President. I want to thank—Fred, thank you for having me, and I want to thank you all for coming. I look forward to talking about American agriculture with you. The issues that relate directly to Montana farmers and ranchers are issues that relate to Texas farmers and ranchers, too. Agriculture is an incredibly important part of our Nation's economy.

I'm going to tell you a couple of things; then I'm going to listen. But I am going to tell you that when it comes to negotiations and trade agreements, we will treat agriculture as an important, integral part of our strategy. We won't kind of hold agriculture out and then maybe try to get a good deal or not. Agriculture is an important part of our country's economic future.

Secondly, I'm—we'll have regulations based upon sound science.

Thirdly, I'm worried about energy; I know you all are, as well. Energy is driving up the cost of farming. It's not only driving up the cost of, obviously, what it takes to run your vehicles; it also drives up the cost of fertilizer. And I understand that.

And fourthly, I look forward to discussing with you some of the conversations I've had with our Canadian friends to the north, in regards to labeling and wheat policy and timber policy as well.

So I'm honored that you all gave me a chance to come by and visit. It's my first time I've ever been to the State of Montana. But I suspect I'm going to find— good folks here in this State are kind of like the folks where I came from, hardworking, God-fearing, family-loving people who are worried about how to make a living in the agriculture sector. Thank you all for giving me a chance to be here.

Agricultural Assistance

Q. Mr. President, do you see a need for a farm rescue package along the—[inaudible]—of last year's?

The President. It's too early to tell, but we've got contingency money set aside. We've got contingency money set aside in case that needs to happen.

Q. And do you see a need for a permanent change in the farm—[inaudible]?

The President. It's too early to tell. What we don't know yet is whether or not the new risk management programs that have been put in place achieve their desired effect.

Montana Drought

Q. Montana farmers are worried about drought, Mr. President. What can you do to help them?

The President. Pray. Pray for rain. [Laughter] We have just come through a tough drought in my State of Texas, and I understand what drought does to a farmer. The only thing we can do is hope moisture comes, and we've got to call upon the good Lord.

In the meantime, we've got disaster payments and risk management programs at the Federal level.

Thank you.

Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what led Mr. O'Neill to go ahead and give his stock options back?

The President. You need to talk to Mr. O'Neill.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:08 p.m. in the warehouse. In his remarks, he referred to Fred Booth, Presidential designee to head the Montana office of the Farm Service Agency. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks at the Tractor Supply Company and an Exchange With Reporters in Billings, Montana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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