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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, UNITED STATES.
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
CHIEFS OF BUREAUS AND DIVISIONS,
ESTIMATES OF APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE DEPARTMENT
ENDING JUNE 30, 1908,
SEEDSMEN AND OTHER PERSONS ON
FREE SEED DISTRIBUTION
AND OTHER MATTERS RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT
DISTRIBUTION OF SEEDS. /
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C., December 12, 1906. The committee met at 10.30 o'clock a. m., Hon. J. W. Wadsworth in the chair.
The CHAIRMAN. There are some gentlemen here who want to be heard on this question of Government free-seed distribution, and I call the committee together to get this question out of the way before the holidays, so that after the holidays we can go on with the appropriation bill. Now, Mr. Smith, please state who are here.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM WOLFF SMITH.
Mr. Smith. There are ten or twelve gentlemen here, if you will hear them. Mr. Burpee, of Philadelphia, was selected to open, and he has to leave at 12.30; but he is not here yet.
The CHAIRMAN. We can give you about an hour and a half. You can use the time just as you please, and arrange it among yourselves.
Mr. Smith. In that case, I suggest that you hear Mr. C. F. Wood, of Louisville, Ky.
The CHAIRMAN. How many people do you want us to hear?
Mr. SMITH. We would like you to hear at least eight, I should say, and possibly ten.
The CHAIRMAN. How much time will each one want?
Mr. Smith. That is entirely in your hands. It is our understanding, Mr. Chairman, that, if agreeable, we should have some time this afternoon or to-morrow morning. Professor Massie, of Philadelphia, who was to speak for the agricultural press, can not possibly get
here until to-morrow morning, and I believe Professor Jackson, of Richmond, will be here this evening; but these gentlemen had engagements and they could not break them in time to get here to-day.
The CHAIRMAN. Go on until 12 o'clock to-day, and then the committee will take up the matter of a further hearing.
Mr. SMITH. I desire to introduce Mr. Wood.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES FRANCIS WOOD, OF LOUISVILLE, KY.
Mr. Wood. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, my name is Charles Francis Wood, of Louisville, Ky. I am a member of the firm of Wood, Stubbs & Co., and am engaged in the seed business.
This question of an appropriation for the dissemination of seeds in various ways has been a question that has come up before your body and before the House and the Senate for many years. It is only in
the last few years that the question of the appropriation has been discussed as to its value, etc.
The original appropriation (while it was confined strictly within the limits of the law) was never objected to by the seedsmen, and I may say that the question of the appropriation was not taken up by the seedsmen at first at all, but was taken up by the National Grange, an association of farmers of the United States. They agitated the question of this Congressional free distribution of seeds themselves, realizing that many parts of it, as it was carried out, were not doing the country any good. They recognize that it was a misuse of public funds, that it was doing the country no good, and that it was injuring a legitimate private business.
The question, as I understand this matter, is whether this appropriation shall be made, or if it is made, shall it be confined to the strict limits of the law. The law says this act was for the dissemination of new and improved varieties of seeds; and we, as seedsmen, and the country at large, the farmers, do not question this enactment or the wisdom of it. We say, however, gentlemen, that as the law has been construed in the last eight or ten years, and as a portion of it is devoted to injuring a legitimate business, that portion of it should be carefully considered by Congress, and stricken out of the appropriation.
This appropriation is divided up into three classes : First, th: Congressional free distribution of seeds; second, the dissemination of new and improved varieties of seeds, and, third, the exportation of foreign countries with a view of finding 'new seeds for introduction to our citizens. These last two classes we, as seedsmen, and the country at large, do not object to; but we do say that the first clause of this appropriation is a serious menace and injury to our business, and that it does the country at large no good.
Now, look at the Congressional free distribution of seeds. What does it amount to? It is an appropriation of $132,000 to be spent in common garden seeds, which are put in small packages and sent indiscriminately throughout the country to a list of constituents, and at the request of comparatively few men. I venture to say that the average Congressman, out of his total number of constituents, does not get 2 per cent of those people who write him for seeds. The balance of them are sent as a small gift to a list of names which may be sent him from voting lists, etc. We do not question that point at all. We know that the Congressman has a right to send anything that is given him free; but the question is whether that appropriation is going to do any good, or whether it is doing the country any good, and whether it is not doing the seed business an immense injury.
We have evidence here, which will be laid before you when the time comes, to prove that the combined agricultural press is solidly opposed to this free distribution. We have evidence to prove that every grange, every horticultural society, every board of trade, every interest pertaining to the farmer, has passed resolutions condemning it; and I will show you that a large majority of these things have been done entirely voluntarily on their part. We have no printed petitions, no set forms, to present to you. We can show you the crabbed handwriting of the old farmer, who can hardly write, who has gone to the trouble of writing out a set of resolutions to present to his little meeting, asking that this Congressional free distribution
of seeds be stopped. We will show you editorials taken from the best and most influential of all the press of this country condemning this appropriation and showing up the folly of it. Mr. Scott. Will you permit me to ask you a question or two, if it will not interrupt you ? Mr. Wood. Yes, sir. Mr. Scott. Have the seed men a national organization ? Mr. Wood. They have a national organization in this: They have meeting once a year for the good of the order. Mr. Scott. Has that association, if it could be so called, or the seed men, through smaller organizations, or individually, to your knowledge, brought pressure to bear on the agricultural press to influence their position on this question ? Mr. Wood. No pressure has been brought to bear. If I understand your question, you mean have they used certain threats, as it were, or pressure in that way. Mr. HAskINs. No: not threats, but inducements. Mr. Wood. No. Mr. Scott. The statement has been made in the debates on this question that the editorial position of the agricultural press could not be taken as significant of the real sentiment of the farmers because it reflected the business office of the press; that the advertisers—the seed men who advertised in the agricultural press—had more influence in the editorial utterances of the paper than the farmers who were the subscribers to the paper, and it is for the purpose of drawing that out that I asked the question. Mr. Wood. I think I can answer that for you. In the United States there are about 14,000 of what might be termed county papers. By a county paper, I mean a paper that has a circulation right in its own little county. There are possibly 475 to 500 farm journals, or journals which have a general circulation among the agricultural part of the country at large. The amount of advertising in the United States in a year I could not tell you. It is simply enormous. There are. I suppose, about 10,000 advertisers in the city of New York alone who advertise generally throughout the country. The seed-trade advertising, as far as it is compared with the volume of advertising done in the United States, does not amount to 1 per cent of the total advertising done. The question, as you no doubt know, has been raised in regard to the patent-medicine advertising. You have been shown in Colliers’ Weekly and many other publications an ironclad contract to the effect that the minute you publish anything derogatory to the patentmedicine industry the advertising ceases. That I would take as kind of controlling the press. I will say to you that the seedsmen of the United States do not take advertisements in one-third of the agricultural press. I mean, taking the county papers, and all that, I venture to say that there is hardly more than one-third of those papers that contain seed advertising. You take the daily press, the influential dailies, and everybody who is a practical advertiser knows that it does not pay to advertise in daily newspapers in the seed business. In the first place, the profits will not justify it, because the daily newspaper goes largely to people in the city, and what the seedsmen