President Bush has signed legislation into law that provides $5.5 billion in emergency aid for American farmers and ranchers. The aid is designed to help those hurt by drought and low crop prices.
It somehow seemed fitting that this signing ceremony took place far from the manicured lawns of the White House. Instead, the President put his signature on the legislation on the grounds of his ranch in central Texas, on dusty prairie land in dire need of rain.
He called in his neighbors to witness the signing. They work the land or raise cattle. And they sat on bales of hay as the President spoke. "I have the honor of signing a piece of legislation that was passed out of the House and Senate in record time," the president said. "It's a piece of legislation to provide economic assistance to the ag [agricultural] communities all across America."
This is the fourth straight year in which a farm rescue package has been signed into law. Most of the aid will go to grain, cotton and soybean growers, with the money slated for distribution by the end of September.
The President said he hoped the aid would improve the lives of people who farm and people who ranch. "I'm worried about the fact that the ag economy suffers because agriculture is a part of our national security mix. If we can't grow enough food to feed our people, we've got a problem," he said.
Mr. Bush joked with his guests that this was probably the first signing ceremony ever held in the tiny town of Crawford, Texas. He told them it probably would not be the last.