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our wheat, all of our cotton, and all of the oil produced in Oklahoma in 1931 at the present prevailing price of the first of last August would not pay the tax bill of the citizens of Oklahoma in 1931. I do not know—no one knows how badly in debt the farmers are. I do know of one county where more than three-quarters of the farm land in the county—not including the land taken over by the mortgage companies—was sold last year for taxes.
My father went to Illinois as a boy in 1840. I went with him as a boy to Nebraska in 1875. When the Cherokee Strip was open for settlement in Oklahoma in 1893, I went there. Times were hard for the pioneers, but never as hard as now, and we were buoyed up with hope for the future.
But the farmers now, I regret, are without hope, unless Congress passes some legislation similar to this bill. We have tried cooperative marketing. It is a step in the right direction—but only one step in a long journey. I think a bigger per cent of the wheat grown in Oklahoma goes through a wheat growers' association than any other State. The same is true of cotton; but under the present condition, the best cooperative marketing in the world can only get for the farmer the world price for his crop.
Various men are here to tell of the condition of agriculture in their several States. I have been asked by the National Farmers' Union to tell something of the condition of agriculture in States other than those that will be represented before your committee. Many of the State organizations are unable to bear the expense of the farmers to come here to represent that State.
Remember, that the Federal census of 1930 shows that the value of farm lands and buildings decreased in the 10 preceding years above $20,000,000,000. Think of it! An average loss of capital investment of $3,500 per farm and the bulk of this loss is in the territory drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries; and this loss of $20,000,000,000 does not properly reflect the present actual condition. The census was taken as of April 1, 1930.
Farm-land values reflect the price of agricultural products. That census was taken as of the value of the crop of 1929. I do not recall a single agricultural crop that did not sell for at least twice as much in the fall of 1929 as it sold for last fall. The farm price, of course, varies a little in different States and different parts of States, due largely to the transportation cost of freight. But, the following prices of crops are approximately correct: Wheat, 35 cents; corn, 23 cents; oats, 18 cents; cotton, 5 cents; 200-pound hog, $6 or $7; butterfat, 15 to 18 cents; eggs, 9 cents a dozen; fat cattle, 3 to 4 cents a pound; and horses and mules, $15 to $30.
Property selling at farm sale brings scarcely anything, due to the fact that nobody has any money to buy with ; banks all through the farming district going broke. Merchants are marking down the price of the goods on their shelves, but still unable to sell them because nobody has any money. Labor is unemployed, and farmers are anxious to do improving on their farms, but are unable to do so because of lack of money. Every Mississippi Valley State shows fewer home owners and more tenants each census than it did the 10-year previous census. In many of them the number of tenants has increased more than 25 per cent in the last 20 years. Their tax burden has more than doubled in that time.
I realize that legislation similar to this proposed measure probably will decrease the value of the dollar that is now borrowed on farms. But the farm mortgage that is now eight years old at present price of farm crops, will require at least four times as many bushels of wheat, as many head of cattle, as many head of hogs, as many bales of cotton, or as many bushels of corn to pay off the mortgage now as it would at the time the debt was contracted eight years ago.
And to those who have invested their savings in real estate mortgages,
and this includes life insurance companies, I want to say that, unless some legislation similar to this measure is passed by Congress, they are going to lose all of their investment. Farmers are now making their last struggle. We must have more money; we must have an American market for what agricultural crops are consumed in the United States. We must have reduced indirect tax, as well as direct tax.
I might say that Oklahoma has approximately $30,000,000 which, under the constitution, it is required to loan on farms. The applications are at least 15 months behind. They can not anywhere near supply the demand.
The secretary of the land department told me last week that not a single farm loan had been paid off in the last six months, or reduced; and that as they matured they were either standing them off for the interest or they were renewing them and adding the interest to the principal.
Senator THOMAS of Idaho. Mr. Hyde, I ask this question now because I might forget it later. What program does the Farmers' Union have relative to the reduction of taxes? Taxes are a very important matter in the operating expenses.
Mr. HYDE. In our State, by authority of our board of directors, I am calling a conference about the 1st of March, and at that con ference we will have representatives of the bankers, the lawyers, the doctors, and each different occupation or profession, which is asked to send someone to the conference at Oklahoma City so that we can sit around the table and work out a tax-reduction problem. We will have that conference about the 1st of March. I was not just sure how long I would be up here, but we will call it about the 1st of March.
I have the appropriations for every department of the State from statehood down to date. I have the tax levy of every municipality in the State of Oklahoma, from statehood down to date, including the local schools; and from that we hope to work out a tax reduction program.
Senator THOMAS of Idaho. It is very evident in my State that unless we can reduce taxes on our agricultural land we will not be able to own it.
Mr. HYDE. I might say that for 10 years, from the Government figures, the average of the farmer's tax equaled 11.9 per cent of his gross income, taking the Government figures for the value of his crops, using the 13 principal agricultural crops. For 1929 it equaled 12.9 per cent; and this year it will run above 33 per cent.
Senator THOMAS of Oklahoma. On that point, Mr. Hyde, it is generally conceded by economists, I think, that the same economic rules that govern oil, wheat, corn, and cotton, govern money. That
is, when those commodities are plentiful they are cheap, and when they are scarce they are high.
Mr. HYDE. Yes.
Senator THOMAS of Oklahoma. If that same rule does govern money, by increasing the circulation would it not follow that money would become cheap, and to the extent that money becomes cheaper commodity prices would increase in value? Mr. HYDE. Every commodity price would go up; yes, sir.
Senator THOMAS of Oklahoma. Then, if this reasoning is correct, in answering Senator Thomas's suggestion, if something could be done to increase the circulation of money, making it cheaper, that, of itself, would reduce taxes. Do you agree to that, Senator?
Senator THOMAS of Idaho. Yes.
Senator THOMAS of Oklahoma. It would decrease taxes. That is, you would pay the same number of dollars, but if a farmer gets two dollars where he now gets one, taxes are reduced 50 per cent.
Mr. HYDE. Senator, do not talk about dollars. Talk about cent to us. We do not know what dollars áre.
Senator THOMAS of Oklahoma. I will have a photograph made of the first dollar I see and give you pictures of it.
Senator THOMAS of Idaho. Would the increased use of silver help to relieve the situation?
Mr. HYDE. There is no question about it. The more we get the better off the producers are.
Senator THOMAS of Idaho. We people out West are very much interested in silver. Mr. HYDE. I agree with you.
Senator SMITH. I want to ask you this question. You are talking about having a conference of all the vocations and professions to talk about reducing taxes. We hear a good deal on the floor of the Senate and elsewhere about balancing the Budget. If we, under present conditions, start balancing the Budget, it is a notorious fact that there is no income. You talk about taxes not being paid because the farmer did not have anything to pay them with.
Mr. HYDE. Yes.
Senator SMITH. When we balance the Budget, if we attempt that foolish thing on the present basis, you would not have any Government, would you? You have no income. What would you pay your officers with? I have sat in the Senate and listened to them talking about balancing the Budget. You have no budget to balance. You have no income, and if you have no income, balancing the budget means that your income must balance your outgo. If you have no income, how are you going to pay these officers? How are you going to run the machinery of organized government?
Mr. HYDE. We are going to reduce the salaries in Oklahoma, for one thing. We are going to reduce unnecessary boards.
Senator SMITH. What salaries would you pay if you had no income?
Mr. HYDE. We could pay $2,000 a good deal easier than we could pay $8,000.
Senator SMITH. But if you did not have $2,000 it would be about as difficult as to pay $8,000, would it not?
Mr. HYDE. Yes; but we can get the $2,000.
Senator SMITH. I was just going upon the proposition that in our State, and in other States, income is dwindling to where there
You are not getting anything. Therefore, in place of us talking so much about balancing budgets, suppose we devote our energies to getting something to start with, to create a budget.
Mr. HYDE. I am with you.
Senator McGILL. Mr. Hyde, in your testimony you gave the percentage of the value of the farm lands under mortgage in Oklahoma, as I recall it.
Mr. HYDE. Yes.
Senator McGILL. Can you tell us about how long that percentage has prevailed?
Mr. HYDE. It is increasing each year.
Senator MCGILL. I know it is increasing somewhat, but has it increased much in the last several years, or have the farms under mortgage
Mr. HYDE. We did not have a mortgage 40 years ago in Oklahoma Senator MCGILL. I understand.
Mr. HYDE. The percentage of the value of the farms under mortgage in 1910 was 22.9 per cent. In 1920 it was 26.8 per cent. In 1925 the farm census that was taken showed that it was 39.8 per cent; and in 1930, 50 per cent of the value of the farms carried mortgages, or just a fraction over 50 per cent.
Senator McGILL. Do you know what percentage of the value of farm lands in other States is covered by mortgage?
Mr. HYDE. Yes; I have it from every State in the Union. I checked up last night, and every one of the Mississippi Valley States shows an increase, not only in the number of mortgages, but a decrease in the number of farms operated by the owners and an increase in the ratio of the mortgage to the value of the farm. It shows it not only for the last 10 years, but for the last 20 years. I can get that information and tabulate it if the committee wants it, for nearly all of them for the last 30 years. I have all of them, and would be glad, if the committee is interested, to furnish it from any and all States.
Senator SMITH. Have you the average of the mortgages on all the farm property in the United States ? About what is the average ?
Mr. HYDE. No one can get that, for this reason. The enumerator from the Census Bureau, when he goes to the farm, can only get the mortgage debt from the farms that are operated by the owner, or where the owner is at home. Often the wife will not know just the amount of the mortgage. The census enumerator can only get that where he finds the owner of the farm at home. But if I were living on a farm as a tenant I would not know how much of a mortgage there was on the farm.
Senator SMITH. Do you know what percentage of the farms are under mortgages?
Mr. HYDE. Yes; of those where they found the operator at home.
Senator Smith. I am not speaking about the amount, but what percentage of all the farms of America are under mortgage?
Mr. HYDE. I found this, that in the States east of the Alleghany Mountains nearly all those States showed in 1930 a very small decrease in the value of land, and some of them a decrease in the number of mortgages and the amount of mortgages; but the Mississippi Valley and the Southern States all showed a great decrease in the value of the land in 1930, as compared with 1920, and an increase in the number of mortgages, as well as a decrease in the number of home owners. That applied equally to the Northwestern Mountain States of Montana, Idaho, and Utah.
Senator McGILL. I think, Mr. Chairman, it would be valuable to have incorporated in the record of these hearings the percentage of the value of the farm lands under mortgage, generally, over the country, and have it separated by States.
Mr. HYDE. I would be glad to furnish that if the committee wants it.
Senator FRAZIER. We would be glad to have it.
Mr. HYDE. I was afraid it would take too much of your time, but I will be glad to prepare it and can get it here by to-morrow.
Senator SMITH. I saw a statement somewhere to the effect that 75 per cent of all the farms in America were under mortgage.
Senator FRAZIER. Where did you get your figures with regard to mortgages ?
Mr. HYDE. From the Federal Census, 1930.
Senator McGILL. I think it would be a very good thing for us to have it in this record.
Senator FRAZIER. Who is your next witness? Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. A. N. Young, president of the Farmers' Union of Wisconsin.
STATEMENT OF A. N. YOUNG, PRESIDENT FARMERS' UNION OF
WISCONSIN, SOUTH RANGE, WIS.
Senator FRAZIER. Will you give your name and address for the record, please, and state whom you represent!
Mr. Young. A. N. Young, South Range, Wis. I am president of the Farmers' Union of Wisconsin.
Senator SMITH. What is your occupation, Mr. Young?
Mr. Young. Farmer. I am not farming actively now, because I am State president of the Farmers' Union. I became State president just a year ago last November, and that work has taken all my time; but my wife ran the farm up until October 1, and she is running part of it yet.
Mr. Chairman, I am not going to give you a long list of statistics, but I want to give you an illustration of just how things have developed with me.
Before the war, in 1913 or 1914, it took one month's milk check to pay my taxes. During the war it took only half a month's income to pay my taxes. Last year—and this was not so bad last year as it has been-I paid my taxes by borrowing the money at the bank and mortgaging all the milk checks until it was paid back. It took the gross income of the cows that I have for four months to pay my taxes last year.
Things have developed to the point where they are worse now than they were then. I thought that if I gave just a little of my own personal experience it would be just as good as anything.
I ran the farm last year by proxy, through my wife, until October 1. I had a splendid man working on the farm, but it took nearly