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STATEMENT OF C. D. STREETER, FARMER, OF KEOKUK, IOWA.
Mr. STREETER. I am C. D. Streeter, Keokuk, Iowa, operating a farm in Illinois.
Senator NORRIS. You live in Iowa and farm in Illinois? Mr. STREETER. Yes, sir; it is just a hundred miles, two hours and a half from the farm.
Senator KENDRICK. Is your farm an experimental farm?
Mr. STREETER. Well, not so much as this bill is, I don't think, Senator. (Laughter.]
Senator FRAZIER. I am wondering why you go to Illinois to farm. Did you lose your farm in Iowa?
Mr. STREETER. The farm was given to me and I run a lumber yard in Keokuk, Iowa. I have to work in the lumber yard in order to pay the expenses on the farm.
Senator FRAZIER. Your farming is a sort of side issue? Mr. STREETER. The amount involved is more but of course I don't give it quite as much time.
Senator FRAZIER. If you have to run your lumber yard to pay the losses on your farm, I should think you would be in favor of farm relief?
Mr. STREETER. Yes, I am, but in a different way. What I want to say in addition is that I am vice president of the Hampshire Swine Record Association, with headquarters in Peoria, Ill. I have a telegram from our president, J. H. Oliver, and I speak for the association. Shall I read that, Mr. Chairman?
The CHAIRMAN. You may read it.
With knowledge inadequate as to just what farm bill does provide and with minute to minute changes only judgment possible is an opinion that price fixing provision for all agricultural commodities will fail to produce desired results and that processing taxes on commodities will be passed to consumers as additional tax on necessities. Believe it best judgment to rise or fall with the rest of the commodities by hogs staying in the bill if other meats stay in or come out if they are out.
I want to say further that Mercer County, in which my farms are, I think is possibly the largest shipper of livestock in the State of Illinois. I own and am farming 680 acres of land in the State of Illinois and each year produce thereon approximately 2,000 head of hogs. I marketed hogs every month last year. I am, therefore, interested in the farm relief measure that has passed the Hous? and now pending before the Senate to a very substantial extent. Being a farmer thus interested I am especially interested in what is termed “farm relief.” Every form of legislation, therefore, that tends to improve the farm condition has my heartiest sympathy.
I have given consideration to the farm bill now pending and to the discussions in regard to it and I feel that the bill, if enacted substantially in the present form, will be a great detriment to the farmer rather than of advantage to him. I do not wish to discuss the entire bill, only as it relates to livestock and especially hogs. The act itself reccçnizes a tax; and when ycu speak of tax to our farmers, it is just like waring a red flag in front of a bull. They are taxed now to such an extent that that tax is obncxious to them.
Mr. FRAZIER. Doesn't that depend on who is paying the tax?
Mr. STREETER. Well, they usually do it. The difference between the actual price paid and the theoretical fair price is to be imposed upon the first processor as a tax and paid into the Treasury. This tax will have to be borne then either by the processor, by the ultimate consumer, or it will be pushed back on the producer. It stands to reason that this tax will have to be absorbed by one of these three groups.
The Department of Agriculture has issued statistics indicating that the per capita consumption of pork has had only a very slight fluctuation during the last 28 or 30 years, the amount consumed being from 65 to 70 pounds per capita. The same source of information indicates that in 1907 the per capita consumption of all meats was 167 pounds while the per capita consumption for all meats is now from 30 to 35 pounds less. Pork has, therefore, maintained its own as a food. Let me remind you right here that pork is the poor man's meat. .
It seems to me, however, that to impose an added tax on pork will cause the consumer to shift his purchase to some other food article, such as fish, poultry, beans, or eggs.
If therefore the tax cannot be passed on to the consumer, will the processor or packer absorb it? The packer may be able to absorb some of it but he certainly cannot be expected to absorb the entire tax. In fact, it is extremely doubtful whether he will be able to absorb any of the tax and continue in business. The effect of this bill will destroy the farmer's cash market. There are approximately 6,000,000 farmers in the United States. There are approximately 4,500 counties in the United States and about 2,500 of these produce wheat. Something over 1,000 produce cotton, and perhaps between 3,000 and 3,500 counties produce hogs.
The problem of administration is staggering. Secretary Wallace stated in your presence last week that he did not know the cost of administering this bill. There will be an army of clerks and auditors and checkers and it looks like the beginning of the biggest bureau that the Government has ever undertaken in peace times. All of the expense of this giant bureau under the provisions of the act, will be taken out of the tax and only the residue be distributed to the farmers. I do not want you to get the idea that I am opposed to farm relief. I am trying to present to you fairly my view of the provisions of the proposed farm relief measure. It seems to me that this measure attacks the question from the wrong point. Its diagnosis of the farmer's ills looks to production as a sore spot. It seems to me that this is the wrong sort of diagnois. Our whole theory of civilization has been built upon the idea of encouraging the production of food and raiment. It has been said that he was a public benefactor who would produce two blades of grass where one grew before. Our Government has proceeded along that line from its earliest foundation by building up the Department of Agriculture and by establishing agricultural schools throughout the country. We have put a premium on education. We have been trying to give a reward to the producer.
Now to turn around and say that the producer has learned too much and is producing too much is all wrong, unless not only in this country but throughout the whole world there are no hungry mouths. So long as there is a hungry mouth or a naked body too much food and clothing has not been produced. Until there are no hungry people and no naked people or people going around in rags can it be said that too much has been produced.
I hope, therefore, that you may be able to work out an adequate farm relief measure but I feel confident that if you will give due consideration to the provisions of the present measure you will find that it is economically unsound, difficult of administration, and doubtful if not practically of no value to the farmer. In fact, in my own mind, I think it will produce a greater disaster than any that the farmer has experienced in the past. The hog producers want hogs left out of this bill.
Now I speak with authority on that. I have interviewed a great many farmers in our community and I haven't yet talked with one farmer that is favorable.
Secretary Wallace stated last week that this bill is an experiment. If it is the desire of the Secretary of Agriculture to experiment, I trust that you will not permit him to experiment with hogs. If you wish to help the farmer it can be done in three ways-lower governmental expenses, lower our taxes, and give us relief with our mortgages. And I think we will go along. That is my story.
Senator NORRIS. You haven't any other remedy for farm relief except those three you suggested?
Mr. STREETER. That is all I have to suggest, Senator.
Senator Norris. You think that would bring prosperity to the farmer?
Mr. STREETER. It will be a wonderful help.
Senator NORRIS. In the first place, you realize, I presume, that so far as Congress is concerned, the reduction of taxes to the farmer would be a very small item. Most of his taxes come from local taxation, State taxation, county, and municipality, and so forth?
Mr. STREETER. Yes.
Senator NORRIS. So far as we are concerned, your method is confined to two remedies?
Mr. STREETER. Yes; I think that is true, as far as you can go with it here.
Senator NorRIS. One way would be to try to lower the interest rate of the mortgage indebtedness?
Mr. STREETER. That would help wonderfully.
Senator NORRIS. You realize that on that we are terribly handicapped; we can't compel a man holding a mortgage to cut it down, and neither I presume could a State under our Constitution?
Mr. STREETER, If you start right here in Washington, Senator, and show the people where you are going to cut expenses and costs, I believe it will continue right along the line clear down to the farmer. I think the mortgage holder will also fall in line and be more lenient.
Senator Norris. I think that is true, and as I understand it, Congress will try to do that before this session is over and probably have such an amendment on this very bill when it is passed; but I don't want anyone to get the idea that that road is free from difficulties and some impossibilities probably, because we would be at the mercy of the mortgage holder. It would have to make it to his interest to compromise or he wouldn't do it.
Mr. STREETER. Yes; but I believe that if the mortgage holder feels that the farmer is gaining a little, eventually he is going to be able to reduce or pay off that mortgage.
Senator NORRIS. Do you think the farmer can get out unless he can get higher prices for his commodity, even if all the mortgages were cut in two and the interest cut in two? He coundn't get out, could he, unless there was some method brought about so that he could get a higher price?
Mr. STREETER. I have serious doubts. I would like to say this, there is quite a different feeling, Senator, among the farmers in the last two weeks. Two weeks ago I went out to buy some corn. There is lots of corn in the country but they didn't want to sell, everyone of them, you would think they had gotten together.
Senator NORRIS. What price were you offering?
Senator NORRIS. You couldn't blame a farmer for not wanting to sell his corn for 15 cents?
Mr. STREETER. Oh, no; it would be selling it at a loss. But that was all it was worth to ship it.
Senator NORRIS. Before that farmer can pay off that mortgage, if you reduce it, wipe it out entirely and forgive it, which is an impossible thing and we can't expect that
Mr. STREETER. No.
Senator Norris. You have got to let him get more than 15 cents for corn?
Mr. STREETER. Absolutely.
Senator NORRIS. If he didn't owe anything on his farm, he couldn't live and pay his taxes?
Mr. STREETER. You are absolutely right.
Senator NORRIS. Then it seems to me that another one of your remedies almost disappears. It would help some, I concede, but it wouldn't save this situation. Then you have got nothing left of your remedies except that of reducing governmental expenses here, salaries and so forth, and the consolidation of bureaus. That might help a little but it wouldn't be very much for the farmer, would it?
Mr. STREETER. Well, perhaps it would be more mental.
Senator KENDRICK. Pardon me, Senator. Mr. Streeter, is it not true that there is a widespread movement under way now on the part of the State and county and municipal governments to reduce their own taxes and put their financial houses in order to meet this very situation? Mr. STREETER. That is being undertaken, Senator.
Senator KENDRICK. I hardly know a State that isn't reducing its budget of expense, many of them to the extent of a flat 25 percent reduction in the last legislature. Also, it is an interesting thing here to state that I saw corn sold in the Senator's State at 10 cents a bushel and bought thousands of bushels of it at that to feed cattle and those prople worked out of that somehow. It was a long time ago but there were lower prices than the present price on commodities.
Mr. STREETER. Of course we have seen lower prices.
Senator NORRIS. They may work out of this in time if they don't do anything, undoubtedly,
What would happen when the poultry and egg people were informed that a compensating tax would be placed on their products? I don't see how you could enforce such a tax. There are thousands of little ranches all over the country selling poultry at the door. My sister operates that way in California. She sells a couple of hundred fryers a year to people driving in the yard. You couldn't collect a tax on those people. I don't know why you want to boom the poultry business at the expense of other parts of the meat business.
How are you going to prevent substitution of fish when the bill, on page 7, refers to any competing agricultural commodity ? Mr. Loomis made some suggestions about the language of the bill last night but if you are going to include meat in this bill, it seems to me you ought to take out the word “agricultural” on page 7 and also the same language is used on pages 15 and 16 in 5 or 6 places. Fish isn't a competing agricultural commodity but it is a competing commodity. Unless you take out the word “agricultural,” I don't see how you could get any application to fish.
I have received several unsolicited wires from our affiliated organizations in the West, since reaching Washington, every one protesting against the inclusion of cattle in this bill. I am not going to offer them in my limited time. These have come from New Mexico, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, and I have been in contact, before coming East, with stockmen from other States adjoining, and the feeling is very strong against the inclusion of cattle. We realize fully the seriousness of cattle. We realize fully the seriousness of the situation. We know that more cows in the country mean more calves, and that meat consumption must be increased and not decreased. We can conceive of no industry where it would be more difficult to control production under the working of this law than the livestock industry. Land may lie fallow without protest, but the processes of increase or decrease in production of cattle in particular are slower and more difficult.
There are some things that can be done to help the situation, such as shutting off the huge imports of foreign oils—there is more than a billion pounds of oil imported into this country annually—which come in competition with our fats. Our association has pleaded for 25 years for an adequate tariff on hides and has been repeatedly denied. We do not see in this bill any method of controlling the imports of these raw materials which are serious indeed. There seems no application to the compounds made of cottonseed oil which come in competition with hog and beef fats. Give us such assistance as you can in the ways I have mentioned, and I believe it is the consensus of opinion of Western cattlemen today that they will continue to fight their own battles and to hope that artificial measures of this kind will not later have to be applied to our commodity.
Senator NORRIS. Referring to your reference to freight rates, I wish you would elucidate a little more. You spoke of freight being paid several times. Give us an illustration.
Mr. Mollin. The South is the long-time breeding ground. Cattle are moved from the South up possibly through the Denver market to ranges in Nebraska or Wyoming or Montana or South Dakota. A great many of the sand hill operators in your State, Senator, don't have cow herds. They buy young steers in Texas, then they may move from western Nebraska down to a feed lot in eastern Nebraska