This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single copy of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Merwin, I am very grateful for the generous introduction of Merwin Coad, with whom I served in the Congress for several years, and who has been an advisor and a friend of mine, particularly on the subject of agriculture. So I am most grateful to be his guest today. I am confident that this district, which is forward-looking, is going to have the sound judgment on behalf of its own interests and those of the United States to send him back to Congress with a warm majority. (Applause) And he can renew his service there with a Senator from Iowa, who will speak as the former Governor of this state, who was Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Agriculture to the Democratic Party prior to the convention, and who is now Chairman of Farmers for Kennedy and Johnson, your distinguished Governor, and your next United States Senator, Herschel Loveless. (Applause) The way is clear now for Herschel Loveless to be succeeded as Governor by your Lt. Governor and your next Governor of the State of Iowa, Nick McManus. (Applause)
We are about to depart and go to South Dakota, where I am supposed to speak this afternoon on behalf of the Democratic Party on Agriculture. I think the farmers of the United States have a serious decision to make. I remember hearing President Truman, and undoubtedly you heard him make this speech, that the farmers maybe deserved what they got because they voted Republican in 1952. (Laughter)
I am not sure that that judgment is not somewhat harsh, because if you recall the farmers voted in 1952 because they were informed by the Republican Party in 1952 that they were going to get 100 per cent parity support prices in the market. (Applause)
Well, now we have had eight years. The farmer in 1960 is not the farmer of 1952. He has had eight years to study the fruits of his judgment of 1952. (Applause) We have heard a good deal about Operation Consume and Operation Distribution and Operation Production, and will hear more tomorrow when the Vice President of the United States addresses the farmers on his farm program. But I do not come to the farmers today, nor does the Vice President come to the farmers tomorrow, out of the blue. This matter before us has been before us not merely for eight years, but for 25 years. I think the farmers of the United States can make a clear and precise judgment as to which party, day in, day out, month after month, year after year, has been more concerned with the income of the farmers of this country, and I have no doubt that when all the speeches are separated, when all the promises of this campaign are analyzed, I think that we should look at the record. The Bible says, "By their fruits you shall know them." One hundred per cent parity in 1952, and I don't know what we are going to hear tomorrow. But we have the record of the last eight years. We have Mr. Benson's own statement that Mr. Nixon was a major participant in the development of the Benson program, and Mr. Benson may not be, as Mr. Nixon says, the greatest Secretary of Agriculture in history, but he is a truthful man. (Laughter and applause)
I don't say there is any easy answer, but I do say that the government and the farmers, working together, recognizing that surpluses which are unconsumed by our own people and by people around the world, break the price. The balance between supply and demand, useful supply, supply to our own people, and the hungry people around the world, I think to bring that kind of supply into balance with that kind of demand, I think can bring us a successful farm program.
I spent a month in West Virginia, and I saw 100,000 families that wait for surplus food packages which include some grain, cornmeal, rice and this summer they are going to add lard. Why should they have to wait to add lard in the richest country on earth? Operation Consume I did not see in West Virginia, and there are 4 million people in the United States who wait every month for surplus food packages to sustain their lives. Yet this administration has opposed a food stamp program. It has opposed any worthwhile and realistic way of distributing our food to our people. I would like to see the next President of the United States take 100 acres of farm land and say, "This percentage can be grown for distribution at a decent price in the market place for our people here at home. This percentage can be sold in the market places of the world for a decent price. This percentage of that 100 acres will be for our own people, for school children, for surplus food, for our older people who get surplus food packages; that percentage will be used for the American people. This percentage will be used and not called a surplus, but will be used as an asset in the great struggle of the Sixties to decide whether the underdeveloped world, where people starve by the millions, will come with us or with the Communists."
I said last night if Mr. Khrushchev had the choice between 50 scientists and 50 American farmers, he would take the farmers and be right, because the secret of growing food with only a small percentage of the population is the great asset which we have in the Sixties, and an asset greater than Sputnik and more meaningful in the long run than any other asset that this country has - to grow, therefore, the remaining percentage, to determine which part of that percentage of the 100 acres can be used to distribute food usefully through the United Nations and by our own agreements, food for peace.
Everyone talks about it, but it has not been sustained and supported since we put it forward in 1956 and 1957. Hubert Humphrey and Orville and the others put it forward as a program to spread the message around the world that the American people were not interested just in the cold war, not just in the fight against the Communism, but were interested in people for people's sake. That is the spirit which motivated Franklin Roosevelt and Wilson and Truman, and if we are going to have influence, if we are going to stand up to Mr. Khrushchev, it isn't just a question of arguments in the kitchen or out of the kitchen; it is having policies which move this country and make it stand for something around the world.
I ask your support in the campaign, not because I am the candidate, but because I think that this country has a great chance in the Sixties, and because after 14 years in the Congress, and after 18 years in the service of our country, all of us want the best for our country, and I think this year we can do better. Thank you. (Applause)