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I just wondered, with the permission of the chairman and with your consent, sir, if we could proceed to have you just summarize your statement in a general manner and then have the statement printed in the record as it actually is. In that way we might be able to expedite the session here this morning.
The CHAIRMAN. Your motion would make it possible for his statement to be accepted ?
Senator THYE. His statement would be accepted and printed in the record, Mr. Chairman, and he could more or less summarize what he would like to emphasize.
Mr. BOURNE. This is a very short statement and unless there are some questions I can get over it in 2 or 3 minutes.
Senator THYE. My reason was to try to hear the other two gentlemen this morning before we go into session. If the other two gentlemen could summarize their statements and emphasize what they think is most pertinent in their statement and then have the record show the entire statement, we might be able to get through with these two gentlemen before the Senate is called into session.
Mr. BOURNE. All right, if I may proceed.
Peanuts, except during the war years, have been a surplus problem and, we believe, are again already a surplus problem today. This fact is momentarily obscured by the sale to foreign countries of vast quantities of peanuts for crushing into oil, abroad, during the current and last previous crop year.
History shows clearly that, as we look to the future, peanuts should not be classified as a surplus-exportable commodity; at least, they cannot be so classified in a sound economic manner.
There is positive evidence that peanut products are today already priced out of the market, to a degree. The consumption of salted peanuts for the current crop year, according to the latest report of the Department of Agriculture, is 31 percent below the corresponding period of last year and 4712 percent below the previous year.
The volume of demand for salted peanuts and peanut butter is always directly affected by the level of farm prices—for a very simple reason. Both products are purely peanuts—there are no means of cushioning or modernizing high parity prices by making combinations with lower cost ingredients. This factor, I believe, is of great significance since roughly 75 percent of all shelled peanuts are ultimately distributed to the American public as peanut butter or salted peanuts.
During the past 30 years we have witnessed the development of the peanut-growing industry from something of only minor significance and substantially confined to a small area bordering the States of Virginia and North Carolina to an industry of such magnitude that peanuts are recognized as one of the six basic crops of this country. It is a major crop of the Southern States and has played a significant role in contributing to the solution of the “cotton problem.”
Paralleling this has been the development of the peanut butter and salted-peanut industries and the expansion in distribution of peanut confections. While throughout the rest of the world peanuts are merely an oilseed, in this country a market has been made for them in the form of peanut butter, salted peanuts, and peanut confections, enabling levels of farm prices for above the competitive oilseed levels.
These products which have made the market must compete with many other products to gain and keep the favor of the American con
suming public. If these products are priced up out of favor, farm production and farm prices can be sustained only by Government subsidy-diversion of peanuts to oil.
We are confident that a sound plan of calculating parity for peanuts can and will be found. We are just as confident that with peanut prices at sound levels—in true proportion to the general level of American agricultural prices—the demand for peanut products in the three major forms can be sustained at sufficiently high levels to that peanuts can continue their part in the agricultural welfare of the South, and without an undue or discriminatory subsidy burden on the Federal Government.
We appreciate the opportunity of appearing before you and sincerely hope that some of the points I have tried to bring out today will be helpful to you in the drafting of good sound legislation.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Bourne.
Mr. BOURNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. Our next witness is Rev. William J. Gibbons, S. J., member of the board of directors, National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
STATEMENT OF REV. WILLIAM J. GIBBONS, S. J., BOARD OF DIREC
TORS, NATIONAL CATHOLIC RURAL LIFE CONFERENCE, NEW YORK, N. Y.
The CHAIRMAN. Father Gibbons, could you summarize your statement and then we can have your entire statement printed in the record.
Father GIBBONS. Well, Senator, if I might, I would like to make a short summary of what I want to say.
Could I do that?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes; then we will go ahead and print your statement in the record.
Father GIBBONS. I am speaking on behalf of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. Its interest is not primarily in the economic aspect of title III of this bill, although we realize the difficulties concerned with the basic period and also the inclusion of wool as a basic commodity.
I have been advised that is a rather doubtful procedur Apart from that and the need for considering international agricultural commitments, I would like to say nothing. Our chief interest is that the
arrangement of the points that deal with soil conservation in title I and to a certain extent in title II should be such that no harm would come to the soil-conservation districts. I understand the way the bill is drafted that actually will not happen.
However, it must be carefully seen to that representation on these county and State committees will be afforded to the soil conservation directors.
The second thing I should like to say is that these committees on the county and State levels sooner or later, it seems to me, are going to have to give consideration to agricultural labor. I realize at the present time this is looking way ahead but the setting of agricultural policy in certain counties and in some States, and I am thinking specifically of California, can be very detrimental to the agricultural workers if there is no inclusion of some representation from the labor interest.
In conclusion, I merely would like to say that this recent soil-conservation survey which was made by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations pointed out that our soil-conservation position in the United States is extremely bad, much worse than we realize, and therefore a rather extended program is needed in the direction of soil conservation rather than any curtailment. I am thinking specifically of the bill before the House which was introduced March 30 by Congressman Hope that establishes a land policy. I think that could very well be tied in with the economic aspect of this bill.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you for your appearance here, Father Gibbons.
Father GIBBONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. Your entire statement, Father Gibbons, will appear in the record in addition to the summary which you have just given us.
(The complete statement is as follows:) STATEMENT FILED BY REV. WILLIAM J. GIBBONS, S. J., BOARD OF DIRECTORS,
NATIONAL CATHOLIC RURAL LIFE CONFERENCE, NEW YORK, N. Y., APRIL 21, 1948
My name is William J. Gibbons. I am a member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and serve on its executive committee in a consultative capacity. The conference now has official representatives in 81 of the Catholic dioceses of the United States and has an active lay and clerical following in all regions of the country.
On behalf of the Rural Life Conference I wish to thank the Committee on Agriculture for this opportunity of expressing our views, and to add that we appreciate the work being done by the committee with a view to formulation of a coordinated agricultural program.
Economic stability of agriculture is a prime concern to us. We do not wish to see the farmer an underprivileged member of our economy or to witness a collapse in the farm structure such as followed World War I. For that reason members of the Rural Life Conference look with favor on most of the economic objectives set forth in legislation now before this committee. Except on relatively minor points, they would not be inclined to disagree with the amendments of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, contained in title III of S. 2318.
The sections on parity prices, carry-over, normal supply and total supply are indicative of progressive thinking in the field of agricultural economics. It seems to me, however, that some attention will have to be paid to international commodity agreements and to United States cooperation in international organizations concerned with food and farm products. On the details of the parity structure set forth in title III, I do not intend to comment except to say that should these provisions, or their equivalent, not be passed during the present session of Congress, then some extension of existing price-support legislation will be needed for the coming year.
DECLARATION OF POLICY
The general declaration of policy centers around obtaining for farmers a position as favorable, regarding essentials, as that enjoyed by management and labor in industry. As an economic objective this is most desirable.
No portion of our population should be underprivileged. However, the means by which this economic objective is obtained is all important. It would be shortsighted to place so much emphasis upon purely economic goals that social and cultural values receive insufficient attention. In this regard I would be reassured, were more safeguards provided for protection of the small and medium independent farmer and for encouraging family life upon the land.
Some of the economic objectives set forth in section 2 might equally well be achieved, for the immediate present, under a family-type farm system or under a system of monopolistic, industrialized agriculture. But socially and culturally, the displacement of farm families by large farming corporations would be disastrous. Ultimately it would result in the creation of a land-hungry proletariat and the rural inequities which were found in some of the older agricultural economies of eastern Europe, prior to present upheavals, and which still exist in much of Latin America.
Even though it be mechanized and temporarily productive, large corporation farming has its feudal aspects. In any case it has undemocratic implications, as regards landownership, which are not acceptable to many of the American people. It can be seriously detrimental to natural resources, if not controlled. Our economic policy for agriculture should therefore be so framed as to positively discourage monopolistic farm practices, the exploitation of small landowners and agricultural labor, and the misuse of resources. There are some further comments on these points below.
Specifically, it seems to me that (1) of section 2 would profit by expansion to include the social characteristics of the family-farm system. This would insure that we not only have production but achieve it in a way socially beneficial to American family life.
With numbers (2) to (6) there is much that is progressive and desirable. Such policy objectives need to be set forth.
The objective indicated in (7) is good in itself. However, a complete conservation program will have to be broader than one obtainable by the efforts of farm operators alone.
The paragraphs of section 2 touching upon conservation programs, namely (8) and (9), have far-reaching effects which cannot be overlooked. In certain ways they change radically our existing programs for conservation. Careful study of the effects of such changes is necessary. In (8) the objective is set down of coordinated research and information services concerning conservation practices. But the more important objective of a unified approach to conservation programs, on the national level, is not considered. Instead, in (9) it seems to be assumed that the only coordination of programs will be as regards incentive payments.
Care of our human resources, as they are called, is all-important. Accordingly (10), which is a key objective, should be more specific. Also, what is meant by "efficient employment of rural human resources" needs to be defined. It could mean exploitation of manpower by large commercial growers, or encouragement of undesirable rural-urban migration, or it could mean systematic development of rural areas, decentralization of industry, and other desirable procedures. This seems too important a point to leave loosely worded.
Under (11), other Government agencies concerned with rural people are not given sufficient, attention as regards necessary educational work. This policy objective could be interpreted to mean that adult education in the rural areas was the concern solely of agricultural extension services. Now this seems a narrow approach, even though as nuch coordination of effort as possible is objectively desirable.
With (12) and (13) there can be no disagreement. Much depends on the specific ways these objectives are implemented.
The separation of research and action programs as provided in (14), is in itself a worth-while goal. However, it should not be rigorously interpreted so as to handicap agencies capable of doing both a research and activities program job. In organizing administration it is sometimes necessary to take into account historical circumstances. It is quite possible that too strict interpretation of this policy objective would result in inaction regarding important programs by the various extension services and the State and county agricultural committees.. Sometimes a Federal agency has to reach down into the local level just to get things going.
O vner-operated farms, particuarly of the medium size, are a most desirable goal for agricultural policy. Facilitation of such ownerhip by provision of credit to prospective owners is necessary as (15) recognizes. But, some further additions seems needed to indicate opposition to systematic absorption of familytype farms by large land corporations.
Objectives (16) and (17) are in full accord with progressive thinking in agricultural economics and with sound social principles. Marketing agreements, and the judicious handling of surpluses in perishable products are effective
means of stabilizing our farm economy. The school-lunch program, and some sort of distribution system for low-income families, are good ways of providing outlets for products in surplus supply. They are also instrumental in improving dietary habits and creating additional demand for farm products.
In principle, the decentralization of economic functions is to be commended In practice, its results must be carefully weighed as they manifest themselves in individual programs. Concretely, the effect of title I would seem to be to place our soil-conservation program in the hands of State and county policy committees. It would make a national approach to conservation of natural resources most difficult.
The regional offices of the existing Soil Conservation Service would be abolished by title I and such regional offices could only be continued where several States asked for them. Extension services would take over the educational information and demonstrational functions of soil conservation and the research features would be placed in the hands of the experiment stations.
Theoretically, this approach has much to commend it, but in practice it would mean a break-down in our coordinated attack upon the problems of erosion and conservation. At this time, when 500,000 acres annually are being damaged seriously, a national program is most necessary. If anything, our conservation program should be extended to include more effective control of forest and water resources.
The National Catholic Rural Life Conference would like to go on record as favoring retention of the soil-conservation districts, as provided for under existing legislation. It regards such districts as democratic in their organization. Because of the nature of conservation problems, which vary according to regions, and areas, such districts are well adapted to the working-out of effective programs. They can, moreover, be integrated with State and county agricultural planning, as proposed legislation before the House Committee on Agriculture indicates.
In approaching the conservation program, it seems desirable to keep distinct the payments made to farmers for support of prices and purely incentive payments for conservation. The economic and conservation programs should ot be confused.
Conservation of natural resources is so important a problem in our country, due to the accelerated rate of soil depletion and the needs of an increasing population, that thought should be given to integrating all conservation work under one agency or administration. This should be a separate entity, and not merely part of an educational and informational program, such as is provided by agricultural extension service.
There is real danger of not doing enough to preserve our vanishing soil, water, and forest resources. The approach to the problem must be comprehensive and on a national level. In the past, our Nation has failed to take effective action in promotion conservation. During the last decade the Soil Conservation Service has done much to correct this deficiency. We should be careful not to take a backward step. Otherwise there will be no effective control over our much-needed
STATE AND COUNTY ORGANIZATIONS
Administration or supervision of agricultural programs by farmer representatives is a desirable goal. However, the organization built up should be one to safeguard established and worth-while programs. Federal supervision of conservation policy must be adequately provided for. In certain States, there is real danger that the State and county committees, unless their authority is limited, will work at cross purposes with the national conservation program.
The agricultural council plan envisioned in title I has its advantages. It integrates effort on all levels and provides for representation of many interested parties. Certain aspects of this program have already proved workable. However, such agricultural committees or councils must be so constituted that they cannot be used for purposes of self-interest by large and influential growers.
The assumption that all American farmers and persons engaged in agriculture fit into the same category cannot be accepted. Large grower interests, which we can be sure will be represented on the agricultural councils, may pursue policies actually detrimental to smaller family-type farmers and to farm labor,