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STATEMENT OF ED B. BASKIN, PRESIDENT, STATE ASSOCIATION
OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICT SUPERVISORS, BISHOPVILLE, S. C.
Mr. BASKIN. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I would like first to take this opportunity to welcome you to South Carolina to hear the problems of the South Carolina farmer. I would like to say at the outset that I have been following your hearings for some time. I appreciated the fact that you gentlemen went into Wisconsin, Iowa, and other parts of our Nation to hear the problems of farmers of other sections.
I see that I have made somewhat of a mistake in appearing here as a representative of a group.
The CHAIRMAN. What is your occupation ? Mr. AgNEW. I am a farmer. The CHAIRMAN. Let's get your farming views now. Mr. BASKIN. Yes, sir. The CHAIRMAN. You are here for soil conservation ? Mr. BASKIN. I would like to say to begin with, sir, that I thought in order to appear here it would be preferable that I appear as a representative of the group of which I am president. However, as you will see in my statement, I devote 1 page to the thinking of that group and 4 pages to my own personal opinion. This statement is prepared by me personally and individually.
The CHAIRMAN. The statement will be put in the record as though you presented it, sir. Suppose you highlight it and give us the views you have as a farmer. Mr. BASKIN. That I would like to do.
I would like to begin first by saying this: We as a soil-conservation group, and this is a brief summary, would like to express our appreciation to the loyal support which was expressed for the soil-conservation work this past year when in spite of the fact that the administration recommended that our funds be drastically reduced, you gave us a considerable increase in our appropriation.
I think that that is ample testimony to the fact that you appreciate the work we as independent unpaid farmers are doing.
I would like also to commend
The CHAIRMAN. I wish to say this to complete the picture: I am chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, but my good friend to my right here is also on that committee and I should drop dead today he would be its chairman. He is also, as I am, on the Appropriations Subcommittee that provides these funds and if it had been left to us you would have gotten more than you got.
Mr. BASKIN. I can endorse that myself because I had written commitments from both before it ever came up. they would support us a hundred percent.
The CHAIRMAN. Let's not forget Senator Russell, because he is the chairman. Mr. BASKIN. We are appreciative of Senator Russell.
The CHAIRMAN. I do not mean to say that other Senators here like my good friend over here, Senator Scott, did not do as well as we did, but the thing is they don't sit on the Appropriations Committee, which is the one that made these recommendations, and where the real fight was put on. The others have voted down the line. Senator Thurmond made a speech on that on the floor of the Senate. Senator THURMOND. That is where the fight was to a great extent.
The CHAIRMAN. You would agree that the Appropriations Committee's coming out with it helped a bit?
Senator THURMOND. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. That helped quite a bit. We are all in the same boat in trying to help now. The only reason I mentioned myself and Senator Johnston is because we were on the committee there that held: the hearings, and were instrumental in getting the facts before the whole Senate through the hearings that made it possible to get all this money.
Mr. BASKIN. The next point I would like to cover is the recent law passed, Public Law 550, which deals with our small watersheds. We would like to say we have one pilot project operating in this State and it has worked with great success. We think it should be the model for your future plans for controlling water because water must be controlled where it falls.
The recent floods in New England are ample demonstration of the fact that once the water gets into major streams there is no big dam that will control the floods of our mighty rivers. We think this law should be improved. It is vastly encumbered with redtape. It takes several years to even begin to get the project rolling under the new law. We think there should be provision for the Federal Government to bear a large share of the dam, the cost of dams which benefit large groups. Now, there is very small provision for the Federal Government to bear the cost of these dams which benefit large groups and of course you can't persuade a small group of farmers, the law right now deals primarily with the farmer above the dam, but very often even the city below the dam will benefit as much or more than the farmers from whose farms the water is collected.
We like the law but those two things, abandonment of redtape and larger share of Federal funds on larger dams that have wide beneficial results would improve the law.
The CHAIRMAN. As I understand it, the Federal Government pays all the costs. Mr. BASKIN. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, it does. I am chairman of the Public Works Committee and I think I know what I am talking about. I am referring to the big dams.
Mr. BaskIN. I am talking about the small dams that collect water back at the streamhead, and not on rivers and streams. I mean your small watershed projects.
The CHAIRMAN. Watersheds like in Pickens County?
The CHAIRMAN. The bottom lands that were flooded and you could not grow corn. Below the dam projects as much as above the dam.
Mr. BASKIN. Yes. There are thousands of acres below those dams in Pickens County that will benefit as many or more than the farmers above the dam.
Now, gentlemen, that completes my statement with reference to the soil-conservation problem, and if you will bear with me I would like to go through, I can summarize but I think it is pretty well summarized already.
The CHAIRMAN. I wonder if you would be good enough to do this: You have heard the testimony this morning and we have asked quite a few questions. Have you anything new to add to what you have heard this morning?
Mr. BASKIN. Yes, sir; I have. I have seven specific recommendations.
The CHAIRMAN. Are they entirely new to what you have heard this morning?
Mr. BASKIN. Not entirely new, but I am here as a dirt farmer and I would like to make them and I don't intend to impose on your time.
The CHAIRMAN. That is all right. We will stay here as long as you have something new to offer.
Mr. BASKIN. I will summarize, then, sir. I would like to say that I have been farming 10 years. I came out of the Army in 1945. I farmed 600 acres of land. This 600 acres of land was formerly in 4 farms. Those 4 farms at one time grew over 400 acres of cotton. Today the allotment on the 4 farms is down to 140 acres and I believe we face a 10- or 12-percent additional cut which I am willing to take, I want to point that out. On these farms at one time there were more than 20 families and I would say at that time those families averaged as many as 10 people per family.
Today with the present cotton allotment we are down to five families. We have mechanized, don't have a mule on the 600 acres that used to be considered approximately a 25-horse farm. I want to point out that the farmers of South Carolina have never failed to vote overwhelmingly to place acreage controls on both cotton and tobacco.
I would like to substantiate the statements made earlier today that we are not only willing but we are anxious at all times to control ourselves to the very maximum extent that will bring our production in line with the produce that is required by our Nation. I am not one of those who supports a two-price system because I don't believe that we farmers here in America in competing with $1-an-hour minimum wages, I am not opposed to a dollar-an-hour minimum, I would like to approach that on behalf of the farmers of South Carolina, I don't believe in other part of our crop we will be able to compete successfully in the national market for cotton or tobacco. We will be competing with labor that is almost in peonage and I don't believe it would be a wise idea for the farmers of these United States to attempt to compete.
I would like to say this: I think that the fundamental thing wrong with agriculture today is that we have as our Secretary of Agriculture, and, incidentally, I want to point out so you will not get the idea I am getting into partisan politics, I was one of those gullibles who accepted the promise of 100 percent of parity made at Kasson in 1952 and persuaded our farmers we were going to get a hundred percent.
With the result 2 years later we are down to 75 percent and less. The farmers are in a drastic situation in South Carolina. We are almost back to a situation that will make 1932 and 1933 look like a picnic if something isn't done quickly, but instead of that we have à Secretary of Agriculture who is very fine, a religious man, I believe, and an apostle of the Mormon Church, but whose fundamental philosophy is completely, utterly and entirely out of step with the needs of the farmer today.
Now, if a man of Mr. Benson's qualifications could be elected President of the United States, I would almost be inclined to go along with it, on the basis that he would put everybody back on the basis of good Christian, honest hard times. I think probably some hard times would be good for all of us, but there is utterly no hope of doing anything about the dollar-an-hour minimum wage with the comparative scale of high prosperity the rest of this Nation is enjoying today.
So the only answer is to do something to help the farmer. I think it is purely a matter of simple economic justice.
Now, I had some figures here I would like to quote verbatim, but since I am only on ad lib basis I will quote them as best I can.
The United States has given away since World War I to foreign nations $130 billion. We have given away $45 billion to foreign nations since the end of World War II, with $11 billion sitting in the Treasury yet to be given away. It seems they are having trouble giving it away. Yet our Department of Agriculture less than a month ago comes out with a well-planned propaganda announcement they had lost $800 million on the farm program within the past year; $800 million. When you stop to think that in the last 10 years we have given away $45 billion to foreign nations. The whole thing was set up as a propaganda trap to turn the general public against the farmer and his parity program with a very completely satisfactory and successful result up to the present time.
I think it is most tragic that our Secretary of Agriculture has busied himself in all seriousness, I assume, going up and down the country making speeches which have turned the consuming public, and there is where your votes are, against the farmer of our Nation.
I say $800 million, I think there is a lot of poor business on the part of the Department of Agriculture that more profit was not realized.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to remind you today that the net profit on the cotton program today stands in the neighborhood of $250 million from the beginning, or $260 million it is, it is up another 10 million and still going on. Net profit on tobacco program which has been so successful, Senator, in your State and ours; incidentally I don't know what would have happened to the tobacco farmer of your State and mine this year had it not been for the tobacco stabilization corporation. I saw on the market day after day virtually every pile of tobacco going to the stabilization corporation.
That, I think, is good. But had we not had it the situation in our Southland today would be utterly tragic.
The CHAIRMAN. Tobacco shows a profit of $187,844. Mr. BASKIN. That has gone down. I believe the last figure I had, I would like to say I don't have the benefit of the Bureau of Statistics to back me up in my position, all I have is what I read in the paper, as Will Rogers used to say. Fortunately I do subscribe the leading agricultural advisory service in this Nation, in my opinion, and that very fine private organization, Forecast Today, that we can look forward to a 2 percent decline in the prices we receive each year for the next 5 years, while at the same time looking forward to a 3 percent increase in the prices we pay each year, which leaves us in 1960 just 20 percent worse off than we are today.
Gentlemen, that in my opinion calls for drastic action. I don't know what we are going to do about a Secretary of Agriculture who is fundamentally opposed, in my opinion, to the programs which we all advocate. I recognize and I repeat I think he is a fine Christian gentleman, one of the finest gentlemen in Government service in my time, which makes him hard to attack, but the main thing is he is fundamentally opposed to what we farmers must have. I think that is the biggest problem.
You gentlemen will have to force our department and the man who heads it at the present time to take objection on behalf of our farmers. There are many other things I would like to say but you want concrete recommendations here today, and I have them and I would like to read that much to you.
The first recommendation I would like to make is for the immediate abandonment of flexible price supports with return to rigid price supports and basic storable commodities. I stress basic storable commodities and I endorse the statements made here this morning that I don't think that any group of producers is entitled to support prices on their commodities unless they are willing to cut their production and bring it in line with the demands of the Nation.
Secondly, I think that rigid acreage allotments which are realistically related to the probable requirements, regardless of severity of cut, should be made.
I think we should require that all acreage retired from cash-crop production be placed in soil-building and soil-conserving crops which will not be marketed from the farm as such.
Now, I realize that has been a debatable question this morning and I would like to discuss that further if you would like to.
Fourth, I think that steps should be taken to see that all regulations are complied with in an uniform manner in all States. I would like to emphasize that by saying it is difficult for me to believe that the astronomical yields being reported in some States are being produced on standard-sized acres. I think sometimes we have king-sized yields on king-sized acres. That is a matter on which there is considerable variation from State to State. That is my opinion and it certainly is not substantiated by any evidence I could give you here this morning. · The CHAIRMAN. Have you collected it yourself?
Mr. BASKIN. I could not. I am an individual farmer. The CHAIRMAN. You are just guessing? Mr. BASKIN. Yes, sir; if you want to call it a guess, but I think there is some substantiation for it. I think the farm program should be administered in a more open and aboveboard manner. Farmers should be allowed to vote controls on or off themselves by a simple majority which is done in all democratic processes but our program requires a two-thirds vote.
The CHAIRMAN. Only of those voting.
Mr. BASKIN. Well, everybody doesn't vote in presidential elections but majority rules.
The CHAIRMAN. You would make it easier to put on these controls. Mr. BASKIN. Yes, sir; I sure would and would like to make it easier because we need them.