McIntosh Family Farm
Missouri Valley, Iowa
1:10 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Today we are here at the McIntosh Family Farms, here in Missouri Valley, Iowa, and we just got a tour from Dean, Don, Richard and Roger. And like a lot of families in this area and across America, the McIntoshes are suffering under one of the worst droughts in 50 years.
We've just been through the warmest 12-month period ever recorded, and right now more than 60 percent of the country is under drought conditions. It's hot, it's dry, and the summer is not over yet.
Things are especially tough for farmers and ranchers, like the McIntoshes, who depend on a good growing season to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. The McIntosh family has been farming in the Missouri Valley for 96 years, so they've seen just about everything, but this is the worst drought they can remember in decades. As a result, their corn yield is off by about a third, and some of their neighbors in surrounding areas are struggling even worse.
Here in Iowa, almost half of the corn crop and more than a third of the soybean crop is in poor or very poor condition. Livestock producers are having trouble feeding their herds. Crops and livestock are a $30 billion business in Iowa, and that's a huge chunk of the economy that's being put at risk. And states all across the heartland have it just as bad.
Now, the best way to help these states is for Congress to act. They need to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some long-term certainty. But the folks suffering from this drought can't wait for Congress to do its job. So in the meantime, I've made sure that my administration, under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, is doing everything we can to provide relief to those who need it.
I've directed the Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration to help give farmers and small businesses across 32 states access to low-interest emergency loans. We've opened up federal land for grazing. We're working with insurance companies to give farmers a short grace period on their premiums, since money will be tight for a lot of families at the end of the crop year. And last week, we announced another $30 million to help get more water to livestock and restore land affected by the drought.
Today we're going to go even further, and we're focusing on helping people who make their living by bringing cattle, pigs, sheep, and other animals to market. The way things work right now, farmers who raise crops are eligible for subsidized insurance to help cushion the blow if disaster strikes. But livestock producers don't have that option. So when grasslands dry up and they've got to sell their animals early, it's a huge financial blow and can affect markets all across the country. We can make a difference, though, and here's what we're going to do.
It turns out that the federal government buys a lot of meat for military bases, hospitals, colleges, food banks and cafeterias. And because of the drought, there are a lot of folks out there that are trying to sell meat right now. So just like you might buy more chicken when it's on sale and freeze it, we are going to stock up. Prizes are low; farmers and ranchers need help; so it makes sense. It makes sense for farmers who get to sell more of their product, and it makes sense for taxpayers who will save money because we're getting food we would have bought anyway at a better price.
And we're not just talking about a few strips of bacon here. Today the Department of Agriculture announced that it will buy up to $100 million worth of pork products, $50 million worth of chicken, and $20 million worth of lamb and farm-raised catfish. And the Department of Defense, which bought about 94 million pounds of beef and 64 million pounds of pork last year, will encourage their vendors to buy more now and freeze if for later.
Understand this won't solve the problem. We can't make it rain. But this will help families like the McIntoshes in states across the country, including here in Iowa. And we're going to keep doing what we can to help because that's what we do. We are Americans. We take care of each other. And when our neighbors hit a rough patch, we step up and help out.
So my message to the McIntoshes and everybody who is suffering through the drought, we understand that we depend on you, America depends on you to put food on the table and feed our families, and as a consequence, we're going to make sure that we're there for you -- not just today, but every day until this drought passes. That is a promise. And as President, I'll do everything in my power to make sure that you get the relief that you deserve.
So, thank you very much, everybody. God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)
1:16 P.M. CDT