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Clinton: Grave Times For Farmers

President Clinton wants congressional Republicans to adopt his $7.5 billion aid package for farmers, dismissing as inadequate a $4.2 billion emergency package they pushed through the House.

American farmers are facing their worst financial crisis in more than a decade and Clinton pressed lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House to stay in session until they approve a bigger bailout than the one they approved Friday.

"I call on Congress not to leave town before they've sent me a comprehensive plan that protects farmers by strengthening the safety net at this very difficult time," Clinton said in his weekly Saturday radio address.

He acknowledged that the $4.2 farm aid legislation adopts many of the provisions he proposes in his own aid bill but said the measure fails to go far enough.

The Republican plan includes $1.7 billion in direct payments to all farmers to compensate for this year's sharp drop in commodity prices. Additional funding would help producers who have lost crops to drought and disease, primarily in the South and upper Midwest.

During a fund-raising stop in Philadelphia on Friday evening, Clinton said many people in urban America do not realize that farming is in trouble.

"In the high plains of America, people that work hard to feed you on the farm don't know there's been a recovery" in the overall U.S. economy, he said. "They've been flooded out or burned out or had diseases."

They also are suffering from weak Asian export markets, he added.

In the radio address, Clinton noted the importance of export markets, saying farm products from one of every three acres planted in the United States are sold abroad. "When those markets stumble, our farmers take a fall, too," he said.

That is why lawmakers must replenish the International Monetary Fund, he said, making another pitch to Congress to put an additional $18 billion into the fund's reserves.

The IMF has financed big bailouts of several Asian nations over the past year and its lending programs can stabilize Asian economies, thereby helping American farmers recover one of their most important markets. But the program's lending reserves are running low.

"Congress has had months and months to create a stronger IMF, better able to deal with the most serious financial challenge the world has faced in 50 years," Clinton said. "Now each day Congress delays on IMF our farmers, our ranchers, our economy, our future suffer."

Written by Eun-Kyung Kim

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