Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekly Address: President Obama Discusses Drought, Urges Congress To Pass Farm Bill

President Obama asks citizens to contact lawmakers and demand action on Farm Bill...Transcript & Video...
This week, President Obama had his first meeting with the White House Rural Council in a year, where he announced new drought assistance measures and $30 million in aid for farmers and ranchers. On Saturday, two days ahead of the start of a three-day bus trip through Iowa, the nation's largest corn-producer, the President used his weekly address to highlight his Administration's "all-hands-on-deck" drought response.

"Right now, half of the corn crop in America is in poor or very poor condition," President Obama said. "Cattle farmers are struggling to feed their animals. Many folks are seeing their livelihoods dry up in front of their eyes."

He ticked off relief measures, and once again urged lawmakers to pass a new Farm Bill that "makes necessary reforms" and gives farmers and ranchers "some certainty year-round." He asked citizens to contact their members of Congress and demand they take action.

"Call your Members of Congress, write them an email, and tell them that now is the time to come together and get this done," President Obama said. "Too many Americans are suffering right now to let politics get in the way."

The President has previously made similar calls for such citizen action on other issues, including for legislation for student loan rates and his small business proposals.



The White House Office of Public Engagement got in on the Farm Bill action this week, hosting a closed-press forum that brought together citizen advocates and media corporations. It was designed to create a unified messaging campaign to convince lawmakers to keep Farm Bill funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program intact. Both the Senate and House version of the Farm Bill contain multi-million dollar cuts to what is commonly referred to as the Food Stamp program. The threat of rising food prices from the drought only makes the need for the federal nutrition safety net greater.

*White House Fact Sheet on Drought Response

*CLICK HERE for all posts about the drought.

The transcript of the Weekly Address:


Hi, everybody. Today, I want to talk about something that most of you know already – it’s hot outside. It’s really hot. And if this feels worse than normal, that’s because it is. We just found out that the month of July was the warmest month on record – warmer than any other month since we began keeping track more than a century ago.

But the heat is just half the story. We’re also suffering through one of the worst droughts in over 50 years. More than a fifth of this country is experiencing what we call “extreme” or “exceptional” drought – with states like Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas getting hit harder than most.

That’s bad news for a lot of people, but it’s especially tough on our farmers. Right now, half of the corn crop in America is in poor or very poor condition. Cattle farmers are struggling to feed their animals. Many folks are seeing their livelihoods dry up in front of their eyes. And if we don’t get relief soon, Americans everywhere will start feeling the pinch, with higher prices on grocery store shelves all across the country.

We can’t let that happen. That’s why, at my direction, the Department of Agriculture, led by Secretary Vilsack, has been working with other agencies across the federal government to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help farmers and ranchers fight back and recover from this disaster.

Already, we’ve given farmers across 32 states access to low-interest emergency loans. We’ve opened up more federal land for grazing. And we’re working with crop insurance companies to give farmers a short grace period on their premiums, since some families will be struggling to make ends meet at the end of the year.

This past week, we went even further – announcing an additional $30 million to help get more water to livestock and restore land affected by the drought. We’re making it easier for even more farmers, ranchers and businesses to get emergency loans. And the Department of Transportation is helping more truck drivers deliver supplies to states that need them the most.

This is an all-hands-on-deck response, and we’ll be doing even more in the coming weeks to help families and communities that are suffering right now.

But my Administration can’t do it alone. Congress needs to do its part, too. They need to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to these kinds of disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some certainty year-round. That’s the single best way we can help rural communities right now, and also in the long-term.

So call your Members of Congress, write them an email, and tell them that now is the time to come together and get this done. Too many Americans are suffering right now to let politics get in the way. Let’s help farmers, ranchers and business owners recover. Let’s make sure that families who already stretch their budgets to the limit don’t have to pay more for groceries this fall.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing everything I can to help respond to this disaster. Because at times like these, it doesn’t matter if you live in Des Moines or Detroit – we’re Americans first. And if we look out for each other, we’ll come out of this stronger than before.

Have a great weekend, everybody. And stay cool.

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*Photo by Chuck Kennedy/White House