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Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Popadiuk on the President's Meeting on the Drought With Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng

June 23, 1988

The President and the Vice President were briefed this afternoon by Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng on the drought situation. The Vice President and the Secretary also reported to the President on their recent trip to view the farm situation in Illinois.

Secretary Lyng showed the President a map that demonstrated the worsening condition of the drought in many areas of the United States. Despite the serious potential effects of the drought, the Secretary said rainfall in the next 2 weeks would alleviate much of the potential damage. The Secretary said that in discussions he has had with Congressmen and Senators, farm groups and Governors, there was agreement that it is too early for emergency relief measures. He also said that the Agriculture Department and other agencies have taken some steps to help, including haying and grazing on acreage conservation reserve and conserving use land and haying on conservation reserve program land.

The Secretary reported on his meeting this morning with Governors on the National Governors' Association Agriculture Committee, who told him they are pleased with the administration's reaction to the drought. Secretary Lyng also told the President and Vice President that the Presidential Interagency Drought Policy Committee is establishing a toll-free hotline to answer questions about Federal services available to citizens in drought-stricken areas. (The hotline begins operation Friday, June 24, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. eastern daylight time on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The toll-free number is 1 - 800 - 541 - 3375. In the Washington metropolitan area, the number is 202 - 447 - 8455).

Chief of Staff Howard Baker, Deputy Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, OMB Director James Miller, and Cabinet Secretary Nancy Risque also attended the meeting. Following that session Secretary Lyng briefed the Cabinet on the drought situation.

The President expressed serious concern about the drought and after the meeting said: "Our number one worry right now is the effects of the drought on the farmers and their families and making certain they receive any help we can provide.''