« PreviousContinue »
Several representative farm organizations of Long Island gave your bill careful consideration and voted that we state here that it was their unanimous opinion that potatoes should be made a basic commodity.
Therefore, we potato growers, representing over 2,000 Long Island farmers, ask that your bill be amended to read on lines 22 and 23 of section 302 (a): Cotton, wheat, corn, tobacco, rice, peanuts, potatoes, and wool
I wish to close in thanking your committee for the time and the courtesies that you have extended to me and my associates.
The CHAIRMAN. That is a very interesting statement. Thank you. Mr. WELLS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Our last witness is Mr. Frank Hussey, president of the Maine Potato Growers, Inc., Presque Isle, Maine.
STATEMENT OF FRANK W. HUSSEY, PRESIDENT, MAINE POTATO
GROWERS, INC., PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE Mr. Hussey. I came as a potato grower in Maine. I happen to be the president of our cooperative marketing organization.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the leading agricultural product of Maine?
Senator THYE. Mr. Hussey, do you ever find Red River Valley potatoes on your consumers' market?
Mr. HUSSEY, We do not, in Maine.
Potatoes from your State and your section and ours meet somewhere in Ohio, perhaps in the western part of Pennsylvania.
Senator THYE. It has always been of interest to me to see how utterly we have failed in the marketing of potatoes in that we have permitted the culls normally to be peddled to our consumers locally, which places a discrimination against our own local potatoes, and the nice packs, the U. S. No. 1's that have been packed in a pleasantappearing package, go clear across the country to the table of a consumer in another State, with many, many dollars of transportation and handling costs involved.
We in Minnesota are constantly being invaded so far as our consumers' market is concerned, by Maine, Idaho, and oftentimes California potatoes, which is just tħrowing a cost upon the producer that is unwarranted and unnecessary. Because we are careless about the type of potato we permit to be marketed locally, the consumer feels that he has to get an imported potato before he really can get a good potato.
Senator AIKEN. I think you have laid yourself wide open, Senator Thye, because Mr. Hussey will probably tell you that Maine does not raise any potato culls.
Or, if they do, they are down in Hancock County, not up in Aroostock
Mr. HUSSEY. I wish I could say that but I am afraid we have our share of the culls.
Senator AIKEN. That is the first time I have ever heard it.
Mr. HUSSEY. I hate to knock the props out from under you on that, but I do think that is a real problem, Senator Thye.
Senator THYE. Senator Young touched on the problem when he said the culls should be taken off and in some manner processed and that the U. S. No. 1 potatoes should be the potatoes that go to the consumer. As the program has been administered, I personally have seen some excellent No. 1 potatoes spread on the field, deteriorated, and lost to the consumer, and then in the early fall the culls have been peddled all over our consumer centers. It just puts a “black eye” so to speak on the locally grown potato.
Mr. HUSSEY. Senator, in my testimony here I will try to approach that problem and discuss it with you further.
Senator THYE. I brought that point up because you are president of your association and I think you people, the associations in general, can take action to bring about a correction. It cannot be done by the consumer and it cannot be done by a Senate committee.
It can be done by the organizations themselves.
Mr. Hussey. That is right. Your committee and Congress can assist the potato growers in making possible some correction of that. We individually cannot do it alone.
one. We can assist, and we are going to suggest that through the medium of marketing agreements and other self-help approaches, that we try to meet that problem because it is a real one.
The industry has been groping for some time to find a way of meeting
that problem along with some others. I should like to add further that I am a member of the executive committee of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, representing potatoes on that executive committee. My own livelihood comes entirely from a farm as a potato producer.
The CHAIRMAN. What percent of the production of the country would you say is under cooperative control?
Mr. Hussey. I cannot give you a good answer to that, Sentaor Capper. In our own State our own marketing organization markets about 20 percent, slightly over 20 percent of the potatoes shipped in interstate commerce from the State of Maine. We are the largest potato cooperative in the country.
The CHAIRMAN. You have found the system of cooperatives a sound practical program?
Mr. HUSSEY. Yes; we have. We believe it is one of the best ways of helping ourselves rather than asking you in Washington to do something for us. We feel that is one method we can use to improve the industry, as Senator Thye has brought out.
Irish potatoes are grown in every State and on a large number of farms and in urban gardens. It is an important feed item in the diet of almost every person in our country.
The commercial crop is concentrated in relatively small areas. These areas are scattered, however, across the country from east to west and north to south. There is attached a dot map prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the United States Department of Agriculture which shows the more important areas of production.
The commercial growers are highly specialized and most of them are dependent to a large extent and many are almost entirely dependent upon potatoes for their livelihood. Our area in Aroostook County is the largest potato-producing county in the United States. Potatoes are virtually the only cash crop grown.
Many other crops have been grown on trial, but we generally end with potatoes alone and some cover crop.
Potato prices are highly sensitive to supply conditions. Naturally the prosperity of consumers is an encouragement, but even so, only a few too many potatoes result in distressingly low prices. 1927 and 1928 were generally considered as prosperous years, and business was generally healthy in both years. In 1927 the average United States farm price for potatoes was $1.02 per bushel for a 370,000,000-bushel crop. Production in 1928 increased 15 percent, and prices decreased almost 50 percent, or to 53 cents per bushel.
I will have prepared and sent you a map prepared by the Bureau of Economics of the Department of Agriculture which will show the more important areas of production.
During the 5-year period of 1935–39 potato growers produced an average crop of 356,000,000 bushels on an average of 3,000,000 acres of land. For this size crops we averaged 70 cents per bushel. During the war years about 400 to 425 million bushels of potatoes were needed. All during the war years we were able to provide an adequate supply of potatoes except for about 3 months late in the spring of 1943.
Production during the so-called Steagall period averaged 426,000,000 bushels on 2,687,000 acres. This was an increase of 70,000,000 bushels on 300,000 fewer acres. During this period the price per bushel doubled over the prewar average and the farm value increased from 246 to 595 million dollars.
The potato industry has been severely criticized for the cost of this program. The cost was nominal all during the war years. 1946 was the only really disastrous year. In 1946 growers reduced acreage to the lowest level in about 40 years, but almost ideal growing conditions all over the country, better cultural practices and availability of improved insecticides resulted in an all-time record yield. The program cost a net of about $88,000,000. If it had not been for this program, I do not believe that growers would have received 50 cents a bushel for that crop. I know that many thousands of acres in my State would not have been harvested on account of low prices. Since potatoes are such a high cash cost-of-production crop, many growers would have been forced to mortgage their farm in order to continue in potato production even on a reduced acreage.
In response to an acreage-goal program established by United States Department of Agriculture, growers reduced planted acreage to 2,147,000 acres in 1947. This is about 30 percent below the prewar acreage.
I would just like to interpolate here a bit. The criticism of the potato program has been that due to the Government's program, the acreage has been increased, resulting in the great surplus that we had in 1946.
That isn't true. We had a surplus, but it was due to improved practices, improved insecticides.
The acreage has been reduced, and last year we had the lowest acreage in those 40 years.
Senator THYE. You had a 25 percent increase in the average yield in 1946?
Mr. HUSSEY. Yes; but the acreage declined.
Senator Thys. The acreage declined, but the actual yield per acre, over the entire Nation, on a practical basis, was up about 25 percent.
Mr. HUSSEY. That is not understood by the average consumer. They just said, "Here is a farm program which has brought about an enormous increase, and the United States Treasury had to step in and bail out."
The indicated acreage for 1948 is 2,162,000 acres. To me this indicates that growers are willing to accept a more or less voluntary acreage allotment program. I think nearly all growers realize that acreage must be brought into line with prospective needs. Growers are so widely scattered that it is virtuaily impossible for them to plan a potato acreage to provide the necessary crop without some help and guidance from a Federal program.
I would like to add here that after we received word of this opportunity to testify here before the committee, I met with as many farm groups as possible. I called together, in short order, the Farm Bureau, Potato Industry Council of Maine, the representatives of the Field Branch of the Production and Marketing Administration, the chairman and one of the members of the committee involved in administering the research and marketing program under the Flannagan-Hope bill, and two or three representatives of county and State organizations, to discuss this testimony.
I wanted to come here with some background of support for this testimony.
The recommendations which follow stem from that meeting.
The CHAIRMAN. You had no difficulty in coming to an agreement on these recommendations?
Mr. HUSSEY. No; we did not, Senator.
The first recommendation is to provide the potato-growing industry with price protection which is so vitally needed and necessary to continued solvency of the potato farmer, and at the same time (2) to afford this price protection on a permanent, orderly footing at a reasonable cost to the Government.
My thought is to frame a program based upon the experience we have had for many years with the program in effect for other agricultural commodities and to draw upon the experience we have had recently with potato surpluses and price support under the Steagall amendment.
The first step would be to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to support the price of potatoes at from 60 to 90 percent of parity. If conditions are such that such support is undertaken at from 60 to 70 percent of parity, spotted surpluses which may develop should be removed by Government purchase and diverted to institutions and to industrial or livestock feed uses.
If, however, it should be necessary or appropriate to support prices at a higher level-say, from 71 to 90 percent of parity-this should be done only if a clear majority of potato growers vote in favor of measures to assist in accomplishing such price support. Of course, if growers as a whole do not vote to adopt measures for such assistance, no price-support activity would be expected. These measures of assistance would be as follows:
(1) Establish a national acreage allotment sufficient with normal yields to provide for our needs, plus expected exports, plus a cushion for safety in the event of low yields;
(2) Break down this national allotment through States and counties to set an acreage allotment on individual farms;
(3) Provide for a marketing quota for each farm based upon the farm's acreage allotment;
(4) Give the Secretary of Agriculture complete control over disposition of potatoes produced in excess of the farm's marketing quota. This control may be in the form of a penalty, outright prohibition to market the excess, and denial of price support to the grower on his quota potatoes. In any event, it must be a strong penalty measure in order to deny advantage to a grower who hopes to profit at the expense of the Nation's industry;
(5) Provide, in the event of abundant yields, for mandatory withholding of low grades, and authorize disposition of surplus potatoes into industrial uses, livestock feeds, and to institutional
food outlets, thus permitting only the best qualities to be shipped. Nowithstanding the farmer's inherent dislike for allotments and quotas, I believe potato growers are so concerned about the future that they will gladly cooperate in a program based on these recommendations.
That is our approach to one of the problems that you have presented, Senator Thye.
Senator THYE. It is a very sound approach, and it is the type of approach that would overcome many of the problems with which we have been confronted.
Mr. HUSSEY. We believe the responsibility is ours, accomplishing some things through the marketing agreements, working through the Production and Marketing Administration Field Branch.
Our objective is to keep administration at the local county and State level, ith authority to act divorced as much as possible from centralized authority in Washington, but with sufficient guidance, under the general over-all program, to assure continuity and uniformity of application all over the country.
The CHAIRMAN. Your statement has been a very interesting one, Mr. Hussey. We are greatly obliged to you.
Mr. Hussey. We appreciate very much this opportunity of being heard. We appreciate the interest you men have taken in our problems, and the problems of agriculture in the country as a whole. We are happy to have had a chance to submit this testimony.
Senator AIKEN. You have not said very much about the rest of the bill. I assume from what you have said that the farmer-elected committees meet with your approval?
Mr. Hussey. Yes; at the community and county levels. I believe that the bill provides for county-elected committees, but that it does not go far enough in the direction of the communities.
Senator AIKEN. You would recommend going down below the county level?
Mr. HUSSEY. I firmly believe that a very important part of the system is the farmer-elected community and county committees, with the program administered, as far as possible, at community, county, and State levels.
Senator AIKEN. Did you notice any glaring errors or omissions in the rest of the bill? I presume you have read it. Perhaps you do not want to go into that now, but if you do, we would be glad to hear from you and to get your opinion.