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STATEMENT OF KENT LEAVITT, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIA
TION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS, MILLBROOK, N. Y. Mr. LEAVITT. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, on behalf of my association which now represents about 10,000 district supervisors and the farmers with whom they work, and of myself, may
I express my appreciation for your courtesy in extending to us this opportunity to testify before your committee. Some of our members had the opportunity of presenting testimony before your subcommittee during its tour of the country and now many of us have read the bill which you have drawn up as a result of these hearings.
Although I have not had the opportunity of consulting personally with our membership in regard to the bill in question, many of them have written me their opinions and, as I have been in close touch with them on many other matters and operate a farm as they do, I believe I can speak for them in as far as this bill is concerned.
As many of you know, and as you can see by the maps which I have submitted to you, the growth of soil-conservation districts in the United States has been very rapid. Nothing like it has ever occurred before in our history or that of other nations past or present. There is a very sound basic reason for this development, and, in order that we can have a common meeting of minds on this issue, I believe a review of the past and present relationship between available agricultural land and present and future populations is in order.
Throughout the last 40 centuries man has developed an ever-increasingly complex civilization. Title III of S. 2318 is a concrete example of his endeavors to control some of its complexities. At the same time and over the same years man has done things to the face of the land, to the soil on which his civilization is based, which have gone unnoticed until recent years and which, if unchecked, can result in nothing less than widespread misery and starvation.
A short trip through Greece, Palestine, China, or India, or some of our nearby Latin-American countries or even closer, some of our own States, is all that is necessary to demonstrate what happens to nations that neglect or abuse their soil and water resources. But we have an additional problem. There are nearly 3,000,000 more people in America today than existed at this time last year. This may be unusual so let us say the average increase will be 2,000,000 per year. Each person needs some three acres of land, agricultural land from which to draw food and fiber sufficient for our standard of living demands.
Six million additional acres drawn from our reserve for agricultural purposes, yet we know that some 500,000 acres per year are being destroyed by erosion or improper land use.
The road down which we are headed is not attractive. It needs some special engineering to turn us away from the errors of omission and commission of those nations I have just mentioned, but it will take a successful agricultural policy based on proper land use to conserve these basic needs. Only then, with the soil under our feet where it belongs and not flowing down some great river with the refuse of cities, or washing down hillsides to make untillable swamps, or blowing through the air in choking and destructive dust storms-only then, when we learn to apply proper land use to every acre of our land can we properly legislate the future share that the farmer will
have of the Nation's income; the prices he will receive from the urban dweller; the profits that shall be his for his time spent working and controlling the Nation's greatest natural resource, soil and water.
We now have the tools with which to operate such an effort. We have a Soil Conservation Service with technical ability to assist the farmer in putting every acre to its best use. We have an association of land holders and operators prepared to cooperate with any agencyFederal, State, or local—who desire to foster this idea. We have an agricultural conservation program to assist in financing this effort. We have credit agencies to help the farmer with his financial problems. We have a Fish and Wildlife Service to promulgate and protect that essential segment of nature's eternal ring. We have many other agencies, both State and Federal, all seeking to do an ever-increasing share of this great job.
All we need now to do is to properly coordinate and aline them so that a true land policy will be created that will assure a sufficient supply of food, fiber, and forest products for the demands of our intricate civilization and our rapidly increasing population.
How will you do that? It would be simple if we did not desire to maintain at the same time a democratic form of government-to sustain the right of the individual to operate his lands as he thinks best. Were it not for these conflicts, we would simply have our Federal Government so legislate that proper land-use practices would be made mandatory on the landowner. We don't want such legislation. It would be un-American. We do not need it. For we have not only the proper technical service at hand to help the landholder put the best practices into effect, but we have a rapidly growing body of public opinion which is demanding that such practices be carried out, and, furthermore, we have a growing number of landholders and operators who
believe in and are putting into effect such practices voluntarily. They have recently adopted a motto—“With the right to own goes the duty to conserve.” That is the American way and while we still have time I urge you to do everything possible to insure this method of approach.
As I have said before, all we have to do is to take our existing facilities and put them together in such a way that the full force and influence of the Federal Government will be directing a national land policy based on proper land use, foster additional assistance from State and local governments and then, build up and strengthen the present well-organized but still growing landowner group which is endeavoring to carry out these policies on the land itself.
S. 2318 does none of these things.
Mr. LEAVITT. Would you like me to read a little more and explain it or do you want me to go into detail here?
Senator THYE. Proceed with your statement.
Mr. LEAVITT. It does not concentrate the powers of the Federal Government on this vital problem. It diversifies them. It does not endeavor to stimulate private initiative toward better land use, but rather attempts to build up a federally dominated bureacuracy reaching down to the county level.
Senator THYE. In which manner?
Mr. LEAVITT. By putting a whole series of new people on the Federal pay roll, State committee, county committee, community committee and giving them the power.
Senator THYE. How do you do it now?
Mr. LEAVITT. We are doing it through soil-conservation districts, sir.
Senator THYE. I know. That of course is a word. What constitutes the soil-conservation committee?
Mr. LEAVITT. You mean the State committee?
Senator THYE. I mean the entire structure that you are referring to and for which you say S. 2318 does not provide.
Mr. LEAVITT. Well, sir, I would like to refer you to the second paragraph from where we are.
Senator THYE. Could you not answer that question right here? Mr. LEAVITT. Well, I will try, sir.
Senator THYE. You have criticized the provisions in this measure and you say it does not do any of the things you
think necessary in a good constructive soil-conservation program. For that reason, in order that I may get clearly in my mind, first, what you criticize and secondly what you favor, I would like to have you explain it.
Mr. LEAVITT. Yes, sir.
you will refer to section 101 of the bill, it reads as follows: The Secretary of Agriculture shall establish an agency, to be known as the Bureau of Agricultural Conservation and Improvement, to exercise all functions of the Secretary and of the various bureaus and agencies within the Department of Agriculture, which
1. Prior to the enactment of this act, were assigned to the Soil Conservation Service or to the Agricultural Conservation Programs Branch of the Production and Marketing Administration and they are listed here.
That would put the Soil Conservation Service and the Agricultural Conservation Program together, would it not?
Senator THYE. Yes, it could. Mr. LEAVITT. It could. It might or it might not. We do not know. Then it takes (a) and (b) the educational, informational and demonstrational features and puts them under the extension service of the Land-Grant Colleges.
Senator THYE. What are they endeavoring to do?
Are they not in the field and have they not been in the field for a good many years endeavoring exactly what any good producer would seek to do?
Mr. LEAVITT. I am afraid they have not, sir, and I think the record
Senator THYE. The fact of the matter is that we must always endeavor to permit a minimum number of people to accomplish a job and we must never strive to expand and create new organizations to do a job using the other as a crutch to lean on, you might say. If any phase of the so-called soil-conservation program is to be developed and expanded, it is by unifying the efforts of all rather than sending them off into various different avenues, all striving to accomplish the objective of better soil management, inspired soil conservation, and increased production.
If you make three or four people responsible for the job, you get a duplication and an overhead expense that should not be necessary.
Mr. LEAVITT. And this bill would increase that duplication.
Mr. LEAVITT. At the moment you have a unified program-Nationwide program.
Senator THYE. How do some of the existing old-time agencies assist in that accomplishment?
Mr. LEAVITT. Some of them are assisting wonderfully and some of them are not.
Let us go back to the other point, sir. You have this unified set-up now, technical engineering and service.
Senator THYE. What percent of the appropriation is expended for the administration of that program?
Mr. LEAVITT. Of the Soil Conservation Service you are talking about now and not of the ACP program?
Senator THYE. I refer to the entire program, if you have the figures there.
Mr. LEAVITT. You see, they are both included in this first section, sir.
Senator THYE. My question referred to the assisting administrative
Mr. LEAVITT. No, sir, I do not, because you have your soil-conservation program, you have the ACP program, the agricultural conservation program of the Production and Marketing Administration; the Production and Marketing Administration is operating under a budget of $150,000,000 a year. I just cannot tell you what percent of that is used for the function you request.
Senator THYE. Testimony that we obtained in public hearings and in contacts with the producer groups led to the provisions that were put into the proposed legislation. The whole thought and the entire intent of the committee is to correlate the activities of agencies in the field that are attempting to improve soil conservation and at the same time get a maximum of production. The purpose is, of course, to eliminate any overhead expense in the field due to overlapping of agencies.
If there are such offices in the field at the present time, it would seem to me highly desirable to use those offices and not to create a new one which would cost money to maintain.
The thought in drafting of this section of S. 2318 was to seek unification, but when that has been accomplished the program itself should start with the desire on the part of the producer as to the type of program he would want. That would be expressed through township organizations on up through counties or parishes, and then up through your State organizations, using the existing personnel and organizations that are now in existence with the support, recommendations and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Mr. LEAVITT. Yes.
Senator THYE. That is the thought that is written into the bill. If it conflicts, then the next question comes up, how much money is expended at the present time on the agencies in the field conducting soilconservation and the general farm or soil-improvement activities?
Mr. LEAVITT. You see, there are so many agencies involved, Senator.
Senator THYE. That is primarily the trouble, there are so many agencies involved that half the time the farmer does not know where to go to look for information. The bill attempts to simplify that problem by clearly indicating the agency dealing with the farmer's problem.
Mr. LEAVITT. Senator, in the next or following paragraph I have a question and perhaps you would like to answer that question.
Senator THYE. Proceed with it.
Mr. LEAVITT. You have before you a pamphlet issued by the Limestone Valley soil-conservation district as concrete evidence of one of the most important tools with which you have to work—a soil-conservation district. There are now about 2,000 of them with some 10,000 farmer supervisors who believe in and wish to foster and increase proper land use. I urge you to do everything in your power to assist them in this effort. S. 2319 diminishes their effectiveness.
More specifically and as evidence of my belief that S. 2318 is not the method of approach, I would appreciate a definition of the functions to be performed at State and county levels by county executive committees and State agricultural councils under section 101 (C) of this bill.
If I interpret them properly they would turn over to federally paid committees operating Federal appropriation the domination of the work now performed by Soil Conservation Service technicians and sponsored by independent soil-conservation district supervisors or directors.
Senator, I have done my best to fathom what "such functions” the first two words of section (C) of section 101, relates to but I have not been able to figure it out; but it looks to me as if you go over to where you have the appropriation for those committees, that you are handing over all the functions now performed by the districts to these committees who are going to be on the Federal pay roll.
Senator Tuye. Where do the people who are engaged in this program get their money now!
Mr. LEAVITT. The soil-conservation district supervisors.
Senator THYE. Where do they get their money from to pay for the wages that they earn, whether it is per diem, per day, or strictly salary?
Mr. LEAVITT. In some cases they get no expenses or per diem. The per diem either comes from the county or State funds and not from the Federal treasury.
There is not one single soil conservation supervisor or director in America that I know of that is on the Federal pay roll.
Senator THYE. But they draw pay.
Mr. LEAVITT. They draw pay from either local or State funds. In cases it is local funds.
Senator THYE. But you admit they draw pay?
Mr. LEAVITT. I am saying in about four or five States they draw no pay whatsoever.