President Obama Signs 2014 Farm Bill Into LawFri, 07 Feb 2014 16:15:14 CST
President Barack Obama today signed the 2014 Farm Bill into law at Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich. These are his remarks (You can also listen to them by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this transcript):
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Spartans! (Applause.) Go, Green!
AUDIENCE: Go, White!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Everybody have a seat here.
Itís good to be at Michigan State. Thank you, Ben, for that wonderful introduction. Give Ben a big round of applause. (Applause.) Heís got his beautiful family right here. How did dad do? Was he pretty good? Yes, there he is. He did good? I thought he did great.
It is good to be in East Lansing. Itís good to be with all of you here today. Iím here because Iíve heard about all the great things that youíre doing. And I want to thank Mayor Triplett and President Simon for hosting us.
I am also here to do some scouting on my brackets. (Laughter and applause.) I just talked to Coach Izzo -- Spartans are looking pretty good. I know things were a little wild for a while, had some injuries. But the truth is that Coach Izzo, he always paces so that you peak right at the tournament. (Applause.) Thatís a fact. Then I got a chance to meet Mark Dantonio. (Applause.) So youíve already got a Rose Bowl victory. (Applause.) You guys, youíre greedy. (Laughter.) You want to win everything.
But itís wonderful to be here. I love coming to Michigan. Mainly I love coming to Michigan because of the people. But I also love coming here because there are few places in the country that better symbolize what weíve been through together over these last four, five years.
The American auto industry has always been the heartbeat of the Michigan economy and the heart of American manufacturing. So when that heartbeat was flat-lining, we all pulled together, all of us -- autoworkers who punched in on the line, management who made tough decisions to restructure, elected officials like Gary Peters and Mark Schauer who believed that -- (applause) -- folks who believed that rescuing Americaís most iconic industry was the right thing to do.
And today, thanks to your grit and your ingenuity and dogged determination, the American auto industryís engines are roaring again and we are building the best cars in the world again. And some plants are running three shifts around the clock -- something that nobody would have imagined just a few years ago. (Applause.)
I just had lunch with Detroitís new Mayor, Mike Duggan. (Applause.) He told me if thereís one thing that he wants everybody to know, itís that Detroit is open for business. And I have great confidence that heís going to provide the leadership that we need. (Applause.) Really proud of him. The point is weíve all had to buckle down. Weíve all had to work hard. Weíve had to fight our way back these past five years. And in a lot of ways, we are now better positioned for the 21st century than any other country on Earth.
This morning, we learned that our businesses in the private sector created more than 140,000 jobs last month, adding up to about 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years. (Applause.) Our unemployment rate is now the lowest itís been since before I was first elected. Companies across the country are saying they intend to hire even more folks in the months ahead. And thatís why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America.
And Iíve come here today to sign a bill that hopefully means folks in Washington feel the same way -- that instead of wasting time creating crises that impede the economy, weíre going to have a Congress thatís ready to spend some time creating new jobs and new opportunities, and positioning us for the future and making sure our young people can take advantage of that future.
And thatís important, because even though our economy has been growing for four years now, even though weíve been adding jobs for four years now, whatís still true -- something that was true before the financial crisis, itís still true today -- is that those at the very top of the economic pyramid are doing better than ever, but the average Americanís wages, salaries, incomes havenít risen in a very long time. A lot of Americans are working harder and harder just to get by -- much less get ahead -- and thatís been true since long before the financial crisis and the Great Recession.
And so weíve got to reverse those trends. Weíve got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just a few. Weíve got to restore the idea of opportunity for all people -- the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you came from, how you started out, what your last name is, you can make it if youíre willing to work hard and take responsibility. Thatís the idea at the heart of this country. Thatís whatís at stake right now. Thatís what weíve got to work on. (Applause.)
Now, the opportunity agenda I laid out in my State of the Union address is going to help us do that. Itís an agenda built around four parts. Number one: More new jobs in American manufacturing, American energy, American innovation, American technology. A lot of what youíre doing here at Michigan State helps to spur on that innovation in all sorts of areas that can then be commercialized into new industries and to create new jobs.
Number two: Training folks with the skills to fill those jobs -- something this institution does very well.
Number three: Guaranteeing access to a world-class education for every child, not just some. That has to be a priority. (Applause.) That means before they even start school, weíre working on pre-K thatís high quality and gets our young people prepared, and then takes them all the way through college so that they can afford it, and beyond.
Number four: Making sure our economy rewards honest work with wages you can live on, and savings you can retire on, and, yes, health insurance that is there for you when you need it. (Applause.)
Now, some of this opportunity agenda that I put forward will require congressional action, itís true. But as I said at the State of the Union, America does not stand still; neither will I. And thatís why, over the past two weeks, Iíve taken steps without legislation, without congressional action, to expand opportunity for more families. Weíve created a new way for workers to start their own retirement savings. Weíve helped to make sure all of our students have high-speed broadband and high-tech learning tools that they need for this new economy.
But Iíve also said Iím eager to work with Congress wherever I can -- because the truth of the matter is, is that America works better when weíre working together. And Congress controls the purse strings at the federal level and a lot of the things that we need to do require congressional action.
And that is why I could not be prouder of our leaders who are here today. Debbie in particular, I could not be prouder of your own Debbie Stabenow, who has done just extraordinary work. (Applause.) We all love Debbie for a lot of reasons. Sheís been a huge champion of American manufacturing but really shepherded through this farm bill, which was a very challenging piece of business. She worked with Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who I think was very constructive in this process. We had Representatives Frank Lucas, a Republican, working with Collin Peterson, a Democrat. We had a terrific contribution from our own Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who deserves a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And so Congress passed a bipartisan farm bill that is going to make a big difference in communities all across this country. And just so they donít feel left out, I want to recognize one of your congressmen, whoís doing an outstanding job -- Dan Kildee. (Applause.) And somebody who was just a wonderful mentor to me when I was in the Senate and has been just a great public servant, not just for your state, but for the entire country -- Carl Levin. (Applause.) Heís always out there, especially when it comes to our men and women in uniform. Weíre very proud of him. (Applause.)
And while weíre at it, we got a couple of out-of-towners -- Pat Leahy from Vermont -- there are a lot of dairy farms up there, so he had something to do with it. (Applause.) Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. (Applause.) All that cold air is blowing from Minnesota down into -- (laughter).
Now, despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers. Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. Itís like a Swiss Army knife. (Laughter.) Itís like Mike Trout -- for those of you who know baseball. (Laughter.) Itís somebody whoís got a lot of tools. It multitasks. Itís creating more good jobs, gives more Americans a shot at opportunity. And there are two big ways in which it does so.
First, the farm bill lifts up our rural communities. Over the past five years, thanks to the hard work and know-how of Americaís farmers, the best in the world, weíve had the strongest stretch of farm exports in our history. And when Iím traveling around the world, Iím promoting American agriculture. And as a consequence, we are selling more stuff to more people than ever before. Supports about 1 million American jobs; what we grow here and that we sell is a huge boost to the entire economy, but particularly the rural economy.
Here at Michigan State, by the way, you are helping us to do even more. So I just got a tour of a facility where youíre working with local businesses to produce renewable fuels. Youíre helping farmers grow crops that are healthier and more resistant to disease. Some students are even raising their own piglets on an organic farm. When I was in college, I lived in a pig sty -- (laughter) -- but I didn't work in one. So Iím impressed by that. (Laughter.) That's no joke, by the way. (Laughter and applause.) Your hygiene improves as you get older. (Laughter.)
So weíre seeing some big advances in American agriculture. And today, by the way, Iím directing my administration to launch a new ďMade in Rural AmericaĒ initiative to help more rural businesses expand and hire and sell more products stamped ďMade in the USAĒ to the rest of the world -- because weíve got great products here that need to be sold and we can do even more to sell around the world. (Applause.)
But even with all this progress, too many rural Americans are still struggling. Right now, 85 percent of counties experience whatís called ďpersistent poverty.Ē Those are in rural areas. Before I was elected President, I represented Illinois, home of a couple of your Big Ten rivals, but also a big farming state. And over the years, Iíve seen how hard it can be to be a farmer. There are a lot of big producers who are doing really well, but there are even more small farms, family farms, where folks are just scratching out a living and increasingly vulnerable to difficulties in financing and all the inputs involved -- farmers sometimes having to work off the farm, theyíve got a couple of jobs outside the farm just to get health care, just to pay the bills, trying to keep it in the family, and itís very hard for young farmers to get started.
And in these rural communities, a lot of young people talk about how jobs are so scarce, even before the recession hit, that they feel like theyíve got to leave in order to have opportunity. They can't stay at home, theyíve got to leave.
So that's why this farm bill includes things like crop insurance, so that when a disaster like the record drought that weíre seeing across much of the West hits our farmers, they donít lose everything theyíve worked so hard to build. This bill helps rural communities by investing in hospitals and schools, affordable housing, broadband infrastructure -- all the things that help attract more businesses and make life easier for working families.
This bill supports businesses working to develop cutting-edge biofuels -- like some of the work that's being done here at Michigan State. That has the potential to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It boosts conservation efforts so that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy places like the Mississippi River Valley and Chesapeake Bay.
It supports local food by investing in things like farmers markets and organic agriculture -- which is making my wife very happy. And when Michelle is happy, I don't know about everybody being happy, but I know I'm happy. (Laughter and applause.) And so it's giving smaller producers, local producers, folks like Ben, the opportunity to sell more of their products directly, without a bunch of processing and distributors and middlemen that make it harder for them to achieve. And it means that people are going to have healthier diets, which is, in turn, going to reduce incidents of childhood obesity and keep us healthier, which saves us all money.
It does all this while reforming our agricultural programs, so this bill helps to clamp down on loopholes that allowed people to receive benefits year after year, whether they were planting crops or not. And it saves taxpayers hard-earned dollars by making sure that we only support farmers when disaster strikes or prices drop. It's not just automatic.
So thatís the first thing this farm bill does -- it helps rural communities grow; it gives farmers some certainty; it puts in place important reforms.
The second thing this farm bill does -- that is huge -- is help make sure Americaís children donít go hungry. (Applause.) And this is where Debbieís work was really important. One study shows that more than half of all Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives. Now, for most folks that's when you're young and you're eating ramen all the time. But for a lot of families, a crisis hits, you lose your job, somebody gets sick, strains on your budget -- you have a strong work ethic, but it might take you six months, nine months, a year to find a job. And in the meantime, youíve got families to feed.
Thatís why, for more than half a century, this country has helped Americans put food on the table when they hit a rough patch, or when theyíre working hard but arenít making enough money to feed their kids. Theyíre not looking for a handout, these folks, theyíre looking for a hand up -- (applause) -- a bridge to help get them through some tough times. (Applause.)
And we sure don't believe that children should be punished when parents are having a tough time. As a country, weíre stronger when we help hardworking Americans get back on their feet, make sure that children are getting the nutrition that they need so that they can learn what they need in order to be contributing members of our society.
Thatís the idea behind whatís known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. A large majority of SNAP recipients are children, or the elderly, or Americans with disabilities. A lot of others are hardworking Americans who need just a little help feeding their families while they look for a job or theyíre trying to find a better one. And in 2012, the SNAP program kept nearly 5 million people -- including more than 2 million children -- out of poverty. (Applause.) Think about that -- 5 million people.
Thatís why my position has always been that any farm bill I sign must include protections for vulnerable Americans, and thanks to the good work of Debbie and others, this bill does that. (Applause.) And by giving Americans more bang for their buck at places like farmers markets, weíre making it easier for working families to eat healthy foods and we're supporting farmers like Ben who make their living growing it. So itís creating new markets for produce farmers, and it means that people have a chance to directly buy from their farmers the kind of food thatís going to keep them healthy.
And the truth is a lot of folks go through tough times at some points in their lives. That doesnít mean they should go hungry. Not in a country like America. So investing in the communities that grow our food, helping hardworking Americans put that food on the table -- thatís what this farm bill does, all while reducing our deficits through smart reforms.
It doesnít include everything that Iíd like to see. And I know leaders on both sides of the aisle feel the same way. But itís a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come through with this bill, break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven partisan decision-making, and actually get this stuff done. (Applause.) That's a good sign.
And thatís the way you should expect Washington to work. Thatís the way Washington should continue to work. Because weíve got more work to do. Weíve got more work to do to potentially make sure that unemployment insurance is put in place for a lot of folks out there who need it. (Applause.) Weíve got more work to do to pass a minimum wage. Weíve got more work to do to do immigration reform, which will help farmers like Ben. (Applause.)
So letís keep the momentum going here. And in the weeks ahead, while Congress is deciding whatís next, Iím going to keep doing everything I can to strengthen the middle class, build ladders of opportunity in the middle class. And I sure hope Congress will join me because I know thatís what youíre looking for out of your elected officials at every level. (Applause.)
So thank you, everybody. God bless you. Iím now going to sign this farm bill. (Applause.)
Hold on a second, I forgot to mention Marcia Fudge is here. I wasnít sure whether she came to the event. I knew she flew in with me. She does great work -- (applause) -- out of the great state of Ohio.
(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)
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