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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks to the Illinois Farm Bureau in Chicago, Illinois


Thank you, John, and to all the members, thank you. Thank you, John White, Governor Edgar, and to Secretary Madigan, son of Illinois, who is doing a superb job as our Secretary of Agriculture. I'm glad he flew out here with us. To Congressman Ewing, who will be flying back with us, I understand, on Air Force One back to Washington. We've welcomed him to the Congress and proud he's there. To Enid Schlipf, who has been at my side today, and I'm grateful for that, his counsel. We had a session, a listening session, getting counsel from business people, and it was most appropriate that Messrs. White and Schlipf were there.

And to all of you ladies and gentlemen of the Illinois Farm Bureau, thank you for that warm reception and for your hospitality. I feel that I've come to the right place. My top priority is to get this country moving faster and more confidently on the path of economic progress.

I've had excellent visits this morning on the trading floors at the Merc and at the Board of Trade. I lost 3 pounds in the process just kind of working my way through those hand signals. And it was wonderful. And I had the privilege to have both John and Enid, who are leaders of the Farm Bureau, at my side during those sessions and also, at Billy Goat's -- [laughter] -- I think you guys were up there. It's a marvelous burger place here. But speaking of farming, let me give you a little bit of historical trivia that will not send you into euphoria, but I always try to claim kinship with various States. And my great-grandfather, David Walker, grew up on a farm near Bloomington, Illinois. How about that one? Nobody's ever heard that before.

But anyway, meeting with so many Illinois farmers and agribusiness leaders, I've had a chance to talk face to face with some men and women who are leading the way. You see, agriculture is a perennial export leader, and recently exports have been a tremendous factor, a big factor in our overall economic growth. And here's how important that is: Every billion dollars in agricultural exports means approximately 25,000 American jobs.

American farmers understand how the world works. You know that taking a stand for peace and stability abroad, supporting emerging democracies, developing free and fair international markets, will make our national economy much stronger. You know what a determined American involvement in global trade represents to the bottom line. It means higher net farm income.

So first, I really wanted to thank, enthusiastically give thanks for the Farm Bureau's efforts to keep America a leader in world commerce and world security. I know I speak for several hundred thousand young service men and women in saying thank you for all your support during Desert Shield and thank you for all your support during Desert Storm. We are very, very grateful.

The Farm Bureau's leadership is vital to our progress for free and fair trade, no mistake about it. You made a big contribution to getting the North American free trade talks off and running. You've helped launch our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative for trade and investment throughout the Western Hemisphere. I can assure you, because of your foresight, we can look forward to unprecedented prosperity and economic security for hundreds of millions of North and South Americans from the Illinois prairies to the pampas of the Argentine.

Secretary Madigan and Ambassador Carla Hills are working to secure a solid agreement for global trade at the Uruguay round of the GATT negotiations. A successful GATT negotiation will literally revolutionize world agriculture trade, opening markets and leveling the playing field for American exports. When we achieve this, we will owe an incalculable debt to the Farm Bureau who has always looked ahead and never looked back on this important question of international trade.

And I might say, John, you're quite a contrast, this marvelous organization, to the noisy voices that want to withdraw us into isolationism and protectionism. They say they want to put ``America first.'' You have the common sense to recognize that America is first and will remain first only if we stay engaged in world markets and involved in world security. And as long as I am President, that's exactly what I intend to do.

American agriculture is productive and competitive because of its strong orientation to free markets. Our agriculture owes much to such fundamentals as advancing productivity, embracing new technologies, moving forward to new frontiers in scientific research.

Rural America is a model of strength on social issues that are vital to our future. Thank God that family and family values remain so important to agricultural America. Farm communities, let's face it, they face many hardships. But they always involve parents in the schools, and that always produces better students. With programs such as 4 - H and FFA, Future Farmers of America, rural America takes a leading role in our America 2000 strategy to revolutionize, literally revolutionize our education.

I can't tell you how impressed I am also at how much most farmers know about computers, not speaking for all of you, I understand, but some of you. But I've had enough trouble just finding the ``on'' switch on my computer, say nothing of getting the cursor to move where and when I want it to. But the point is this, anyone who doesn't appreciate the sophistication of the modern farmer doesn't understand the modern farmer.

Last month, by the way -- maybe some of you all were out there -- but I spoke to 18,000 of our best and brightest kids at the Future Farmers of America convention in Kansas City. And let me tell you, I can't contain my excitement thinking about the day when those young men and women become the leaders of our country. They were bright and alert and patriotic and forward-looking. And somebody, parents in this room and across agricultural America are doing a wonderful job with these young men and women.

The guy that introduced me was so good, I thought he was getting ready to run against me. [Laughter] But anyway, you should have heard him. He's a real articulate dude.

Another concern I know you share with me is the drug problem. The stakes here involve not just the economy but our deepest social and moral well-being. Wherever I go in this country, I call attention to those who fight the drug war on the front lines. I praise the businessmen and women who keep drugs out of their companies and the neighborhood youth centers that keep teenagers off the streets. So, let me take this opportunity right now to thank hundreds and thousands of Americans who don't get mentioned often enough for their devotion in running the strongest kind of drug-free workplaces. And I'm referring, again, to the moms and the dads and the grandparents who run America's family farms.

Now, I know that sometimes times are tough for America's farmer. And that's why we stand by our commitment to help ease the pain caused by natural disasters. This week I will be signing legislation to provide drought and disaster relief. Many farmers in Illinois and other States suffered unusually severe losses this year and last year. And this legislation will provide much-needed assistance for hard-hit farmers. And I will be delighted to sign it.

Now, I know that the economic downturn is hurting a lot of people in virtually every sector. And I've heard from some tough, optimistic people on my visit just today, but they didn't sugarcoat their message about the pain and the problems the country is going through right now.

You and I know that we've got to do more to get the economy on the move, to get confidence back. And I'm prepared to fight harder than ever for a series of growth initiatives. And when Members of Congress go back to work in January, after Christmas, they'll hear from me in no uncertain terms. My growth initiatives will give Americans the freedom and incentive to get higher yields from their efforts. A top priority, and John referred to this, is to cut capital gains taxes. I know it's a top priority of the Farm Bureau, too, and I want to express my deep thanks for your outstanding support on this initiative.

Our high taxes, then, on capital gains are way out of line with the policies in other successful economies. Germany has no capital gains, no tax on capital gains on assets held longer than 6 months. In Japan, an entrepreneur who sells the company that he's built from scratch pays a tax of 1 percent. A capital gains tax cut will free up the capital that we need for growth. And it will increase the value of land, of labor and capital all at once by reducing the tax on success. And I am going to keep on fighting until we get that done.

Right now, we place entrepreneurs in a lose-lose situation. When they risk money and effort on something that fails, they lose. And when they risk money on a winner, we tax the capital gain, and they lose again. We have to put an end to this lose-lose approach to the economy. A capital gains cut will stimulate investment and create jobs in every sector. And quite frankly, it will restore some fundamental fairness to the way we treat farmers and the way we treat homeowners.

Capital gains tax relief is but a part of our program. Thanks to leadership from Illinois' own Sam Skinner, our soon-to-be Chief of Staff, I expect soon to sign a transportation bill that creates new jobs while rebuilding our roads and bridges. And I'm working for a research tax credit to help new technologies create more jobs; working for new IRA's to help the first-time homebuyer, stimulate that homebuilding market; and for bank reform. We desperately need comprehensive bank reform to help America compete in the 21st century and to help free up capital right now.

We want our children's future to be worthy of the dreams and sacrifices that built and sustained America as a great Nation. Back in 1862, in spite of his preoccupation with the Civil War, our President established back then the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Abraham Lincoln revered the American farmer. He believed deeply and stated eloquently that a strong American agriculture was the key to preserving our Nation's independence.

A century and a quarter later, the men and women of Illinois ag are worthy heirs to Lincoln's vision. You and this organization form a vital force for keeping America strong and free. And I am looking forward to seeing some of you, many of you maybe, next month at the American Farm Bureau national convention out in Kansas City. And I am delighted to be with you today. And I am proud to work with you to help keep this great country of ours growing and thriving. I pledge to you I will do my level best to lead this country to new growth and new opportunity.

May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. at the Palmer House Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to John White, Jr., and Enid Schlipf, president and former vice president, respectively, of the Illinois Farm Bureau.

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