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 here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
I would like to talk to you today about our farm problems. Those problems are serious. They are important. They are difficult. But they can and must be solved.
Recently Vice President Nixon unveiled his long-awaited solutions to the problems of our nation's farms. But, disappointingly, his answers were only question marks - the hard, tough problems of American agriculture were left untouched - and the proposals which he did borrow for campaign purposes were the same programs which the Democrats have been offering for the past eight years - and which this Administration - Mr. Nixon's Administration - has always opposed.
Certainly we must agree with the Vice President's statement that we need more research. For eight years the Democrats have been advocating an aggressive farm research program aimed at developing new markets and new uses for farm products. But at the same time that Mr. Nixon was making his speech, the Republicans were blocking a Democratic bill to provide for research into increased uses of agricultural products.
Mr. Nixon suggests that the rural development program should be expanded. But five years after this program was initiated by a Democratic Congress, it remains little more than a pilot project, covering only 30 of our 3,068 counties. Democratic prodding has resulted in a speech by Mr. Nixon - but no action from his Administration.
We can also agree with Mr. Nixon's suggestion for joint international action on food distribution - and for the storage of food reserves for emergencies. But here again such proposals have been made by Democrats in the last three Congresses - only to be ignored or opposed by Mr. Nixon's Administration.
We are less interested in what Mr. Nixon has proposed, than the prospects for action on these proposals. As Mr. Benson has pointed out, Mr. Nixon was one of the "architects" of the Benson farm program. Mr. Nixon himself has stated that he intends to run on the "Republican record" - and that means the dismal, destructive Republican farm record. And Mr. Nixon himself has fully supported all Republican efforts to resist, oppose and destroy the very proposals which now fill his election-year speeches. For the past eight years the Republicans have been making promises to the farmers in election years - only to forget the farmer when the time for action came. And Mr. Nixon's speech looks like more of the same.
But even more important - Mr. Nixon's farm program deliberately fails to tackle the hard, basic questions of parity prices, production controls and deteriorating farm income. Increased use of agricultural products and increased exports will help - but these programs alone cannot reverse the trend toward lower and lower farm income and higher and higher farm surpluses.
The Nixon-Benson theory that uncontrolled production can solve our agricultural problems is impractical and unworkable. It has been tried and it has failed. Whenever he is faced with the declining unit prices the farmer is forced to increase production, bringing more surpluses and still lower prices. It is a losing battle - a battle which the farmer cannot win.
What is called "the farm problem" is, in reality, three interrelated problems.
First, there is a crisis of insufficient farm income
Second, there is the crisis of overwhelming surpluses.
Third, there is the crisis of excessive expenditures for programs of limited benefit.
Every proposal must be judged by the extent to which it can contribute to the solution of these three problems.
There are five essential parts to any basic program.
First, we must provide for adjustment between supply and demand. Corn is no different from steel - or from automobiles - or from refrigerators. When the steel industry finds itself with an excess capacity - as it does today - it trims production. It does not reduce prices. There is no Administration effort to plow back every third company - or even to reduce steel prices. The farmer is entitled to the same consideration.
Second, any future farm program should be run by the farmers and for the farmers. Basic administration on the local level should be in the hands of farmer committees elected by the farmers themselves. Complete responsibility for establishing production quotas should be assumed by the farmer representatives subject to Department of Agriculture guidance. No bureaucrat, no scientist, no economist, knows the trends and variations of the farm picture as well as the local farmers. No one else has the right to make these important determinations.
Third, the concept of parity must be retained as the goal and basis for pricing policies. Only in this way can our nation's farmers be assured of a fair share of the national income. In the past eight years we have watched the steady decline in farm income while all other prices and almost all other wages spurted upward. The farmer has been steadily squeezed between declining income and mounting costs. His share of the national income had dropped to an all time low. Under a program in which supply and demand were evenly balanced, there would be little or no need to support the market by purchases. However, the controls should be available on a standby basis to take care of sudden fluctuations in supply or demand.
Fourth, any national program should be based primarily upon the promotion and preservation of the family farm. That is the basic unit here in Iowa - that is the way it must continue to be. We have no wish to become a nation of giant commercial corporation farms and absentee landlords. Our whole vitality as a nation depends on a contrary course.
Fifth, any national farm program must include provision for the conservation and wise utilization of our soil and water resources. The surpluses of today may well become the scarcities of tomorrow. By the turn of the century our nation will have a population of 350 million - the population of India in 1951 - a year of critical food shortage in that country. With increased markets in underdeveloped nations and rising world populations there will be an ever greater demand for food and fiber.
Economists predict that during the next two years wages will go up - business income will go up - our standard of living will go up. We cannot let the farmer down.
A Democratic program geared to these five basic principles would, I am convinced, restore common sense and common justice to our farm policy.