POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:
POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES
An Administration-Wide Response to the Drought
Source: WH, 8-7-12
President Barack Obama meets with the White House Rural Council to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the drought, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 7, 2012. Among those attending with the President were, from left, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Throughout much of the country, communities are struggling with one of the worst droughts to strike the U.S. in decades. The lack of rain and high temperatures have done considerable damage to crops — particularly those in the Midwest.
Today, President Obama met with the White House Rural Council to discuss the steps being taken to help farmers, ranchers, and small businesses wrestling with this crisis.
As part of that response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that it will provide millions of dollars in assistance to restore livestock lands affected by the drought. The USDA will spend $16 million on technical and financial assistance for those whose crops or herds have suffered.
The USDA has also reduced interest rates on its emergency loan program and worked with the major crop insurers to allow farmers to forego interest payments on unpaid premiums until November. The National Credit Union Administration also announced that more than 1,000 credit unions are increasing their lending to small businesses — including farmers.
The Department of the Interior announced a plan to provide more relief and flexibility to ranchers whose livestock grazes on public lands, while the Department of the Transportation is working with state governments to provide emergency waivers of federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to drought-stricken communities.
The Army Corps of Engineers is working to ensure that the drought doesn’t impede navigation of the nation’s rivers, and the Small Business Administration is conducting a major outreach program so that farmers, ranchers, and other businesses affected by the drought know about the emergency resources available to them.
The President spoke at the meeting and described the effort as an “all-hands-on-deck response.”
“Now, those are the ideas that have already been presented and are in the process of being implemented, but my instructions to all the agencies is we need to keep working and to see if there is more that we can do,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to solicit ideas from state and local organizations, faith-based organizations, not-for-profit groups, the private sector, and most of all, the farmers and ranchers that are directly impacted, to find additional ways that we can help — because when there’s a disaster like this, everybody needs to pull together.”
Read the full fact sheet outlining the administration response here.
The USDA has been aggregating resources for those affected by the drought at: http://www.usda.gov/drought
Remarks by the President at Rural Council Meeting
Source: WH, 8-7-12
Please see below for a correction to a typo, marked with an asterisk, in the transcript.
4:21 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I think all of you are aware that we are seeing devastating drought throughout the country. It is a historic drought, and it’s having a profound impact on farmers and ranchers all across many states.
Now, at my direction, the Department of Agriculture, led by Secretary Vilsack, has been working with every other agency across the federal government to make sure that we are taking every single possible step to help farmers and ranchers to fight back and recover from this disaster.
We’ve already designated over 1,500 counties across 32 states as disaster areas, which gives qualified farmers access to low-interest emergency loans. We’ve also opened up more land for haying and grazing. And we’ve worked with crop insurance companies to give farmers a short grace period on unpaid insurance premiums, since some families will be struggling to make ends meet at the end of this crop year.
This has been an all-hands-on-deck response. I want to thank Tom for his leadership. But obviously, we’ve got a lot more to do, because a lot of folks are being affected by this.
So today, the Department of Agriculture is announcing an additional $30 million to get more water to livestock and restore land impacted by drought. The National Credit Union Administration is allowing an additional thousand credit unions to increase lending to small businesses. The Department of Transportation is ready to help more commercial truck drivers to provide much-needed supplies to farmers and ranchers. And the SBA, the Small Business Administration, is working with other government agencies to connect even more eligible farmers, ranchers and businesses with low-interest emergency loans as well as counseling and workforce programs.
Now, those are the ideas that have already been presented and are in the process of being implemented, but my instructions to all the agencies is we need to keep working and to see if there is more that we can do. And we’re going to continue to solicit ideas from state and local organizations, faith-based organizations, not-for-profit groups, the private sector, and most of all, the farmers and ranchers that are directly impacted, to find additional ways that we can help — because when there’s a disaster like this, everybody needs to pull together.
Obviously, Congress has a role. Congress needs to pass a farm bill that will not only provide important disaster relief tools, but also make necessary reforms and give farmers the certainty that they deserve. That’s the single-best way that we can help rural communities both in the short term, but also in the long term. And we’ve already seen some good bipartisan work done in the Senate.
Now is the time for us to come together and go ahead and get this done. And my hope is that Congress, many of whom will be traveling back to their districts, in some cases in rural communities, and see what’s taking place there, will feel a greater sense of urgency and be prepared to get this done immediately upon their return.
In the meantime, my administration is going to use the full extent of our administrative powers to make sure that we’re responding appropriately.
All right, thank you very much, everybody.
4:25 P.M. EDT