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sideration. We had had some discussions with him earlier, but certainly we were not at liberty to discuss or release the information, or to go into any great detail in preparation in the administration of it until the message had come to the Congress.
Senator HUMPHREY. Mr. Secretary, has your advisory committee ever recommended this kind of a program to you?
Secretary Benson. The National Agricultural Advisory Commission ?
Senator HUMPHREY. Yes.
Secretary BENSON. They have considered, I believe, every phase of this program that has finally been recommended by the President.
Senator HUMPHREY. But did the Commission recommend it to you, sir? Secretary BENSON. The committee at their last meeting, as I recall
, recommended a soil bank along the lines of the one which is now before us. They have studied a good many soil-bank proposals, as you know, through the last 2 years. I think, if I recall correctly, at least 11 proposals were studied in some detail.
Then we had a task committee in the Department working on this approach now for some months, and this program that is now before us came in large measure from that task committee, drawing on suggestions from other proposals that had been made. I don't know what the genesis
of this thing is, and I am not particularly concerned about that, but I am sure that ideas or phases of this program here have been in other proposals.
Senator HUMPHREY. May I say most respectfully there are two aspects of your soil-bank program. One is known as the acreage reserve, which is a means of moving into surplus crops out of the allotment, cutting back allotments, and then replenishing that production by the use of certificates from the Commodity Credit. That is a rather new feature of the soil-bank discussion, as I recall it.
Then there is the other one, which is the conservation feature of soil bank, which is the long-term and the long approach.
I am interested in finding out when you came to the conclusion that it was desirable to pay people for nonproduction, because I have here a letter from your Department which says:
A program that is primarily dependent upon this principle would probably be very difficult to disassociate with the idea of paying farmers for nonproduction,
This was one of the objections to a particular proposal on the soil bank. You apparently did not believe in payments for nonproduction as late as September 30, 1955. When did you change your mind!
Secretary Benson. I have not changed my mind, Senator Humphrey. I think as a long-time proposition there is still danger in that approach. However, we are faced with this very serious surplus situation which is an accumulation of some years.
Senator HUMPHREY. We were faced with that on September 30, weren't we?
Secretary Benson. Not to the degree we are now. In the first place, not only have we saturated almost to the limit the possibilities of moring stuff abroad, but we have also had this excessively heavy production this past year, almost breaking all records, piled on top of the accumulations we had prior to that time.
So we feel we are justified in moving on this as an emergency measure to clear the decks, so that the rest of the program can operate.
Senator HUMPHREY. I want to say that I am very delighted, Mr. Secretary, really and truly I am very pleased, but I would gather that your crop reporting services of the Department knew pretty well what the production picture was by September 30. What crops did you report on after September 30 that have increased the surplus?
Secretary BENSON. The one big and important one, of course, was cotton. We didn't know September 30 what the cotton crop would be.
Senator HUMPHREY. You didn't have very good estimates at that time?
Secretary Benson. The estimates increased sharply between September and December 1955.
Senator HUMPHREY. How can you estimate what it will be for next year?
Secretary BENSON. We do the best we can with the figures available. We don't always hit it right.
Senator HUMPHREY. On page 8 of your testimony you outline what you call the conservation reserve. Is that the full scope
of line of the conservation thus far? Is this the full statement you want to make at this time on the conservation reserve?
Secretary Benson. We will supplement it with details later as we consult with the committee and our technicians will no doubt have the opportunity of making further reports. Senator HUMPHREY. This is your present thinking on it? Secretary BENSON. This is the general outine of it; yes. Senator HUMPHREY. Would that match up pretty well with an idea of having the Secretary of Agriculture establish a conservation reserve that would be allocated to States and counties and farms on the basis of the number of acres under tillage?
Secretary BENSON. No, it would not; because this does not contemplate an allocation to farms.
Senator HUMPHREY. Wait a minute, Mr. Secretary. It contemplates, does it not, a State allocation and a county allocation?
Secretary Benson. We would probably establish some goals, but would not allocate actual acres.
Senator HUMPHREY. But you would establish what you would consider to be the national need of retired acres?
Secretary BENSON. Yes; I think we would establish a rough goal and then make the program voluntary to the individual farmer to either participate or not participate.
Senator HUMPHREY. You believe in voluntary principle?
Senator HUMPHREY. You would work this through the county committee system?
Secretary BENSON. Yes, the administration of it and checking compliance, and so forth, would be carried out by the committees.
Senator HUMPHREY. And would you in your national goal for acreage retirement or conservation try to think in terms of the historical use of the land in the counties and in the States?
Secretary BENSON. I assume that would be one factor and certainly we would consult with our State committees. We are planning to do that and
get their judgments and suggestions on it. Senator HUMPHREY. Would you contemplate that no production should come from this reserve?
Secretary BENSON. The acreage reserve, they could plant it-
Secretary BENSON. On the conservation reserve there would be limitations. As we increase it in grazing
Senator HUMPHREY. I mean for commercial purposes.
Secretary BENSON. On grazing or harvesting, at least in the initial stages of it. Eventually, of course, it would be used, and it may be that the Congress would want to provide for some limited use, for example, pasturing the family cow, or something of that sort. We would want to make it practical.
Senator HUMPHREY. The general idea is that there would be no use of the land for commercial uses at least during the initial period?
Secretary BENSON. Until the stand was established and the new program of land use was inaugurated.
Senator HUMPHREY. Would you contemplate that the National Government would pay for part of the conservation, for improvement, the cost of the improvement program?
Secretary Benson. Yes; we contemplate that.
Senator HUMPHREY. And then awards for holding the land out of production?
Secretary Benson. Some annual payments, for a period probably tapering off to nothing a little later on after he made the transition.
Senator HUMPHREY. Just to recapitulate, as I understarnd it, the Secretary would have some broad objective that he would state as the amount of land that should be retired under this conservation reserve; is that right, per year or over a period of time?
Secretary BENSON. I think we would have a broad goal, and we would be guided somewhat by the effectiveness of the acreage-reserve program and how quickly the surpluses were whittled down.
Senator HUMPHREY. Řight. And this broad goal would have to be divided up on the basis of where the land was; namely, in the States and in the counties; is that correct?
Secretary Benson. We could possibly suggest goals to States, but I assume we wouldn't hold to those strictly, because we want to give the farmer complete freedom as to whether he goes into the program or not.
Senator HUMPHREY. In other words, it would be voluntary with the incentives to get voluntary compliance?
Secretary Benson. That is correct.
Senator HUMPHREY. And the Government would pay for the part of the cost of improvement; that is for the conservation improvements, would pay part of those costs ?
Secretary BENSON. That is correct.
Senator HUMPHREY. And the Government would possibly make some payments on the land itself; is that correct?
Secretary BENSON. On the land itself?
Senator HUMPHREY. For the retired land, woods, as we might call them.
Secretary BENSON. Annual.
Secretary Benson. There would be some annual payments during the transition period.
Senator HUMPHREY. That is correct.
Mr. Secretary, the reason I ask this is because one of my colleagues here said that there had been an attempt on the part of some of us to say that we had similar proposals, and may I say, this is exactly the proposal that was before your Office in terms of its broad objectives and basic principles which was rejected for these purposes on September 30, 1955. For example, I want to read what your Department had to say.
S. 1396 provides for the establishment of a conservation acreage reserve by the Secretary of Agriculture by November 15 of each year for the succeeding crop year. This national reserve would then be allocated to States, counties, and farms on the basis of a formula contained in the bill. Voluntary agreements would then be entered into with farmers which would offer cash payments to them for devoting the conservation acreage reserve allocated each farm to conservation purposes. No production from the reserve acreage could be utilized directly or indirectly for commercial purposes. Provision is also made for payments of up to 50 percent of the cost of the conservation or improvement of the acreage in the reserve.
Then the Department goes on and says:
While this Department feels that this bill would encourage some additional needed conservation, its main purpose appears to be to obtain adjustments in agricultural production. We do not believe that it would be an effective means of obtaining adjustments. Although the bill provides a formula for determining State and county conservation acreage reserves, the percentage adjustment of commercial acreage would be the same for all farms. This would not recognize the difference in the degree of adjustments required for individual farms and areas for either crops under acreage allotments or other nonallotment commercial crops.
The bill requires as a condition for payment that the land in the conservation acreage reserve not be utilized for the production of any commodity (including livestock and livestock products) for market. A program that is primarily dependent on this principle would probably be very difficult to disassociate with the idea of paying farmers for nonproduction. It
says: It is doubtful that such high expenditures to reward farmers for nonproduction of agricultural commodities would be acceptable to many groups.
The estimate under this was $350 million. Don't misunderstand me. I am delighted with what we have here in the conservation soil bank proposals, both proposals—acreage reserve and conservation reserve—and I merely suggest, sir, that the situation was just as bad in March of last year and just as bad in September as it is now, or at least it was very difficult.
How do you find, for example, any great difference between what you are proposing in this broad outline here on page 8 and what was proposed in the basic objectives of 11 bills that were before you in the Department?
STATEMENT OF HON. TRUE D. MORSE, UNDER SECRETARY OF
Mr. MORSE. I wonder if I could comment? I believe you read from the letter which I signed on the bill.
Senator HUMPHREY. It was signed for the Department, with Mr. Morse, as Acting Secretary.
Mr. MORSE. I signed it. You will recall, referring to that bill, that we also ought to give recognition to the fact that on January 17 there were 2 bills introduced into the House. They were soil bank bills.
Senator HUMPHREY. That is correct.
Mr. MORSE. Then on March 10 you introduced your bill.
Mr. MORSE. And in the latter part of July I signed a letter which carried an opinion to the House committee which was very much along the line of the letter which you have been quoting in the record.
Then the latter part of September there came to this committee our opinion from which you have read. We ought to say further that the soil bank is not the only part of the program that is before this committee and which the President presented to Congress.
That is one first essential difference. The soil-bank proposal as submitted by the President and recommended by the President is part of a total program.
Senator HUMPHREY. Indeed.
Mr. MORSE. Yes. Take the wheat bills, some of which the Senate has already passed, they are an essential part of this total program. There is cotton legislation that is referred to. That is an essential part of the program.
Senator HUMPHREY. Mr. Morse, if you are attempting to tell me that the program ought to be comprehensive, I thoroughly agree.
Mr. MORSE. Yes.
Senator HUMPHREY. This is an important part, but it is one of many factors in a broad program. Of course the President's message so indicated, and so do we feel.
Mr. MORSE. Yes. In this context, Senator, there is this. The President said:
I do not propose this program as a device to empty Government warehouses so they may be filled again. There is, therefore, a basic corollary to the acreage reserve program: In future years we must avoid, as a plague, farm programs that would encourage the building up of new price-depressing surpluses.
So if you just enact a program to empty the bins without, as the President says, a program that will keep supply and demand, more or less, in balance, it is not a one-time operation. So we have something entirely different in what the President has presented and is now being discussed with this committee.
Senator HUMPHREY. Mr. Morse, may I say most respectfully that no one has ever suggested that any one bill was the answer. We don't need to argue that academic question. The point is that it requires a broad attack on a very complex and intricate problem. We can all agree on that. My point was that these basic principles which underscore a conservation acreage reserve program were known, they had been with us. I am delighted that the Department has at long last come around to accept them. I merely say that for a period of time there was considerable reluctance, as there was, for example, on limitation of cutoffs on price supports.
I have a letter from the Department on such a bill on cutoffs and, for example, that merely says:
Where loans or purchases were used, the limitation would merely operate to shift the persons from whom the Government acquired commodities, since the Government would acqnire the entire output of srall producers as voll as rart of the output of large producers up to the maximum permitted.
There was resistence and objection as of July 26 to the limitation on price supports. Don't misunderstand me. I am glad you have come around to it. I think it takes a little long, that is all.