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men, hogmen, sheepmen, and over a hundred representative farmers coming together at least twice a year presenting their views, gentlemen, at times the fur flies. But those points of view had to be resolved, as you stated this morning, on a national basis because you are a national Senator, Congressman Cooley is a State Congressman but he must pass laws that represent every farmer in the United States. Am I right?
The (HAIRMLIN. That is right, both of us.
Mr. Hoke. Now, then, we are in a situation of surplus. I have never liked the word “surpluses" and therefore in this statement as you will notice here, I put this in there:
The agricultural surpluses of this Nation (although a blessing from a grateful God who has blessed this Nation with abundance) poses a great threat to our whole economy.
I went through the depression of the 1930's and as we cattlemen say, I lost my shirt practically in cattle feeding.
I had plenty of that product which we as cattlemen know as B. S. I couldn't eat it, I couldn't pay taxes with it, but I had a spirit and determination and knew from the historic past of cattle people that that situation would pass. I lost money terrifically in 2 years feeding cattle. In 1934 and 1936 I regained more of my losses, far more than I had lost because of the severe drought years of the farmers in the Southwest and Northwest.
Here again I mention two facts in my opening remarks. We need but review the past history of agricultural programs to find that the farmers of the Nation were not permitted to solve their own problems, but that politicians felt they solve the farmer's problems through Government by conceiving various programs that cost us billions. We are spending billions today, gentlemen, to continue this program. There is a public relationship from the public who says that the American farmer is being treated to a billion dollar grant every year, ACP payments, storage costs, and all this.
The CHAIRMAN. You don't believe that, do you?
Mr. Hoke. It is not much less than that, if you count ACP payments.
The CHAIRMAN. If you will do like Secretary Benson did when he appeared before the committee in 1953 and put in ACP payments, REA, foreign aid, and everything else, you could maybe make it $25 billion.
Mr. HOKE. Isn't it money?
The CHAIRMAN. But get the amount correct. I don't care what it is. Here is the record taken from the Department of Agriculture itself.
Mr. HOKE. You read those.
The CHAIRMAN. If you had read it you wouldn't make the statement you made.
Mr. HOKE. I am not sure.
The CHAIRMAN. The price-support program on basic commodities that have been supported through June 30, 1955, that is this June, was $392,648,091. That is a pretty far cry from the billions you have been talking about, isn't it?
Mr. Hoke. It is all part of the cost of these programs.
The CHAIRMAN. Let's put the facts as they are, sir. The commodities that have been assisted--that is, through a program of price supports, are the basics at 40 percent.
Mr. HOKE. My point is it is all money that is appropriated by the United States Congress for specific purposes.
The CHAIRMAN. That is right.
Mr. HOKE. I didn't say billions; I said approximately a billion, a billion a year.
The CHAIRMAN. A billion a year? The amount I have just indicated here is for a period of 22 years.
Mr. HOKE. It hasn't cost us a billion?
The CHAIRMAN. I am talking about basic commodities. If you add milk in that
Mr. HOKE. I am talking of all commodities.
The CHAIRMAN. If you add potatoes in that and if you add eggs and if you add all those other commodities, that were added during the war at the request of our Government in order to provide more of those commodities, of course you will find a total of $2,117,006,000 over a period of 22 years.
Mr. HOKE. All right. Now, I would like to go back to the statement you made in your opening remarks this morning. We would like for the farmers of these hearings to develop a program to lessen some of the government in this, if I recall, or something to that effect. I think every farmer in the United States is interested in having less government in farm programs.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree. That is what we are trying to do.
Mr. Hoke. We are in agreement on that. We could sit here and could debate a lot of questions on a partisan basis, which I am going to refuse to do.
The CHAIRMAN. I have refused to do it since I started these hearings. Mr. HOKE. Now, then, what is the solution?
The CHAIRMAN. That is what I want to hear. You give us a solution. That is why we invited you here.
Mr. HOKE. I was very happy this morning when I heard you make a statement if only for God's sake the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Grange, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, I know most of those gentlemen, the Farmers Union, throw those in, would get together, work out a program and I was thinking of that. I put this in here. We are dealing with three things. We are dealing with land, and when I say "land" I mean whether you said commodities or land, to me it is the same thing because it is the same thing.
You produce commodities out of that land, food, and fiber. The farmer and the Government, I am not ready to throw off every program that is in existence now. I sat in a meeting in 1948 where a lot of us were discussing the Steagall amendment and the Steagall amendment was a cushion helping to solve even this rapid drop of farm prices.
The CHAIRMAN. No. The Steagall amendment when first put on the statute books was to provide an incentive that our Government asked be put on the statute books to provide for production of certain crops. The crops that were short at the time, peanuts, they put pea
nuts in there, they put milk, they put eggs, they put even Irish potatoes. Whether that was wise or not
Mr. HOKE. It was wise at that time.
The CHAIRMAN. Of course it was. We will agree because if those products had not been produced you know who would have paid through the nose, the consumer. That is who would have paid.
Mr. HOKE. It was wise, it was an incentive.
The CHAIRMAN. The fact is that we provided somewhat of a cushion and the consumers benefited by that; won't you agree?
Mr. Hoke. Yes, sir.
Mr. HOKE. Then we began to see, some of us who knew the 1921 period, and said here this war is going to end some day. Should we do something to remove this incentive? Well, we came along and of course started to talk parity; 1909–14.
Later we revised that and I sat in on some of that thinking. If the United States Government I think had listened to some of the farmer thinking during the period when we suggested that this thing should be reduced because we are going to create surpluses under this incentive program of 90-percent support price, I said to wheatgrowers who said we can produce wheat in the Middle West for 80 cents a bushel, why should the Government pay us $2.20 support price? I have heard the cattle men from the West and I always refused any support from the Government, I heard corn fellows say it cost us so much to produce corn, why should we support corn prices? We tried to temper this thing and bring it down where we wouldn't create these surpluses.
But without making a long story, we have the situation. Now, then, I believe this, that if the farmers in the farm organizations of this country will get together and work out a program, if you get them together, if we can do it on a nonpartisan, stewardship basis, which is the farmer and the land-use plan.
The CHAIRMAN. As chairman of the committee, I have invited them to do that, and I will expect them to respond and if they don't, we are going to have to do it ourselves.
Mr. Hoke. They are out doing it every day, policy development meetings, the Grange, National Farmers Union, and American Farm Bureau Federation.
The CHAIRMAN. They are so far apart that it is a disturbing factor on the Washington level. If you get one pulling this way, they will have a lot of Senators and Congressmen with them.
Mr. HOKE. They take their lessons from the Senators and Congressmen.
The CHAIRMAN. No, they don't, but they have a little influence on some of them, don't you see.
Mr. HOKE. The farmers or the Congressmen?
The CHAIRMAN. I am talking about the organizations. You know what I am talking about. I am talking about your organizations, the woods are full of them on the Washington level. That is why we came here, this committee decided to come here, to the grassroots and get this from the farmers themselves in the hope that we could find something to solve the problem.
Mr. HOKE. You are leading me to believe that you would not have too much confidence in the representatives that the farm organizations send to represent us.
The CHAIRMAN. We have had them all this while and we have been able to get them together on the Washington level.
Mr. Hoke. I wouldn't say that. Some legislation we have been very much together on. The farm credit bill was passed in 1953. I was in part of that.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree they got together on some things, but the thing we want to try to do now, let's quit arguing, the thing to do now is to get a solution to our present problem.
Mr. Hoke. That is what I am proposing.
Land, farmer, and government. Let's take these programs we have, and I have been talking of their great cost of money and it is going to continue to cost us money, and I am not too sure in my mind, I made this statement already, I am beginning to wonder with the farm population driving down to five million, whether it is the American farmers' business today of producing the food of this country, or if it is the general public's business to see that this food is produced that the farmer is paid for and that goes back to the statement you made. I wonder what the American consuming public would pay if we organized on the basis of labor.
I am not ready for that, and another statement you made this morning that the last freedom of the American people is out here on these family-sized farms. And God knows, and you know, Senator and Congressman, that we cannot maintain these small farmers on these farms under present economic conditions. I have told farmers in my community I felt like a sinner, I felt sorry, but I told them the truth. It cannot be done. Here is a gentleman from the mountains who says these people make a living on less than an acre of tobacco. That is news to me. That is about the size of my statement.
Mr. Cooley. What do you propose ?
Mr. HOKE. It revolves around a program of taking these programs that we have, these diverted acres which are just complicating the problem over and over, you have heard it all today and in all your hearings, I think more rigid restrictions, the soil bank appeals to me, I know it is going to be difficult, I sat in policy development meetings and I have heard fellows get up and they don't want any part of it, but I told those fellows there is a national program and the Congressmen of the United States must pass legislation which affects every farmer in the United States, whether he owns as much as Hammond in Texas or the big boys in the cattle country, or the little fellow in the mountains.
So the details of the plan, if the representatives of farmers get together on the rental basis—a lot of discussion here today, what would you pay the farmer? All right. Most of our land is classified. Most of our soil conservation districts have a classification of land in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, and ACP payments are made on land usage practices on that land. I don't see any reason if a man that has land producing a hundred acres of corn, he should be paid by the Government on a basis of at least net on that acre of land.
Mr. COOLEY. You know that when we were providing money for an ACP program the greatest farm organization in the country bitterly opposed our appropriation and tried to reduce it. Now everybody
seems to realize that it would have been a mistake to have reduced it then, and it would be a mistake now not to increase the program.
The CHAIRMAN. The suggestion was made during the Soth Congress.
Mr. HOKE. I think the criticism was mostly directed at the abuses in that program, and I have seen abuses where farmers, I am a conservationist, I practice it on my farm, I doubled production on my farm.
Mr. COOLEY. What the chairman suggested was that leaders of farm organizations get together and reconcile differences and present a solid front.
Mr. HOKE. They are not too much apart.
The CHAIRMAN. Too much rivalry for membership. That is what I found to some extent on these groups, and that is why at every meeting I told these organization leaders, I would not permit the use of this committee as a springboard to increase their membership, that what we wanted
Mr. HOKE. That is the last thing I want.
The CHAIRMAN. We want to hear from the farmers themselves. That is why I am out spending my own time, I could be home with my grandchildren. I love them. This is no fun, but I am doing it and That is why we come here.
Mr. HOKE. May I ask a favor of you?
Mr. HOKE. If we can get the farmers of this country together through major organizations and work out a program that would give us a program over a period of 5 or 10 years to move the surplus, it may be a godsend in the next 5 years.
The CHAIRMAN. You do that.
Mr. HOKE. If we do that can we have the nonpartisanship basis of Congress?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, do that. (Mr. Hoke's prepared statement follows:) There are several views I would like to present in the agricultural situation confronting the American farmer and the public at large.
1. The agricultural surpluses of this Nation (although a blessing from a grateful God who has blessed this Nation with abundance) poses a great threat to our whole economy.
We need but review the past history of our agricultural program to find that the farmers of this Nation were not permitted to solve their own problems, but that politicians felt that they could solve the farmers' problems through Government, conceiving various programs that cost billions.
It is costing us billions, and it will cost us billions to again balance our production to demand.
Honorable Senators, there is but one place to dispose of agricultural commodities and that is in the market place. It has never been proven that a political law can replace an economic law.
The basic fundamental principles of producing agricultural commodities are tied to two facts: (a) the farmer himself who historically adjusted his production to demand; and (b) the nature of agriculture being unpredictable, supplies us with abundance or shortages.
There is no question in my mind that high, rigid support prices have caused the present agricultural situation.
2. Thus, we face a situation although grave, I believe can be resolved by organizing a team of: (a) land, (b) farmer, and (c) Government.
If these three parties, as a team, will face the present situation in a nonpartisan stewardship and land-use plan, I believe we can adjust our supplies with demand, and thus eventually have less Government in agriculture.