Prospective Agricultural Production


By HATTON W. SUMNERS, Congressman from Texas

Delivered in House of Representatives, Washington, D. C., December 2, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 203-207.

MR. SPEAKER, I do not expect to occupy 30 minutes but I do want to direct the attention of the House to what I think is one of the most serious problems that confronts the American people.

I notice in the paper this morning a statement by the Associated Press that farmers face penalties for non-production, and in the papers of the day before yesterday a statement by the Secretary of Agriculture to the effect that the requirements upon agriculture for the year 1943 will be perhaps the greatest they have been for many years. The goal for hogs is 13,800,000,000 pounds, as against an estimated production for this year of 10,800,000,000 pounds. The program for other foods runs in about the same proportion. The following is from an article by Associated Press writer, Martin, appearing recently in the papers:

[From the Washington Post of November 30, 1942]

Wickard Plans Record Output of Food in 1943

(By Ovid A. Martin, Associated Press staff writer)

Stating that the greater part of the responsibility for supplying United Nations war food needs rests with American farmers, Secretary of Agriculture Wickard outlined yesterday a 1943 farm-production program calling for the largest output in history.

The program set up production goals for individual crops and livestock, dairy, and poultry products which are designed to provide a pool of food greater than this year's record production. The goals placed greatest emphasis on those crops and livestock products most essential to the war effort.

In general, the goals called for more meat and milk, more poultry and eggs, more of the vegetables high in food value, more corn and less wheat, more peanuts for food and vegetable oil, more long-staple cotton and less short-staple cotton, and more potatoes, dry beans, and peas,

"The 1943 goals," the Secretary said, "represent the most crucial and important task our farmers have ever been asked to perform. The role of American food in the war strategy of the United Nations puts the farmer on the front line and dictates the trends of our 1943 farm-production program."

Wickard said the goals represent "minimum requirements" of this country, its armed forces, and the lend-lease program. He said military and lend-lease requirements were expected to take a fourth of the estimated 1943 food output.

"Furthermore, as the United Nations' offensive progresses, we shall have the added responsibility of furnishing food for the people in the countries freed from the Axis yoke," he said, "We shall need to use our food to rehabilitate the people in these countries so that they will be able to join us in the war against the aggressors. We must not fail to keep faith with these people."


Some of the most important goals were: Hogs, 13,800,000,000 pounds compared with this year's estimated output

of 10,800,000,000 pounds; cattle and calves, 10,910,000,000 pounds compared with 10,160,000,000 this year; milk 122,000,000,000 pounds compared with 120,000,000,000 this year; eggs, 4,780,000,000 dozen compared with 4,414,000,000 this year; chickens, 4,000,000,000 pounds compared with 3,118,000,000 this year; corn, 95,000,000 acres compared with 91,098,000 this year; wheat, 52,500,000 acres compared with 53,427,000 this year; soybeans for vegetable oil, 10,500,000 acres compared with 10,900,000 this year; peanuts for food and vegetable oil, 5,500,000 acres compared with 4,173,000 this year; cotton, 22,500,000 acres compared with 24,005,000 this year; and potatoes, 3,160,000 acres compared with 2,845,000 this year.

The combined crop acreage of the goal program was the same as this year, but there were some shifts in crops.

Secretary Wickard is right as to our requirements. Let us see what is being done to bring about that sort of results. I am talking now to the Members of the House who are in responsibility in this situation, because it is our country, it is our people's war. We are the people's representatives. The people are the Government in America, and we are their representatives. I am bringing this matter to our attention because it is not the problem of the Secretary of Agriculture primarily; it is not the problem of Mr. Henderson and his organization. They are not the Government.

We are already far advanced in the coming crop year. People to raise these crops are not in the fields. They are not on the farms. Cows to produce this milk are on their way to the slaughter-house. Farmers to meet this production requirement are, many of them, gone from the farms.

We are advised that some of the peoples who are fighting on our side in Europe have put food on the same priority as ammunition.

What are we doing about it? This is one thing we have been doing about it. I do not want to bring up anything that has gone before, but when we had the legislation before the Congress last September after this Government had helped to raise labor prices in industry and entered into these cost-plus contracts in munitions plants, with the sky the limit on the wages paid there, the amendment to allow increased farm labor cost resulting from the necessity to compete with these prices to be figured into their selling prices was defeated in the Senate. That was not all. The horse is about out of the stable when we come to lock the door.

I have been home recently. I am not like some of you folks, I am just an ordinary-looking fellow, and I can walk into where a bunch of farmers are talking and they will keep on talking about what they were already talking about when I got there. I do not have a large agricultural constituency, but I have some agricultural communities. I went out there as the hired man of those people. That is what I am. That is what some of these other birds are, too, if they just knew it. I invited them to talk to me as their hired man, coming back up here to try to take care of their business, not mine. That is what those people told me, and I know it is true, and I am going to put something in the Record about it if I may have that permission.

This is the substance of what they told me. The agricultural agent of my county was along with me. He took down notes. They told me in substance that their labor was gone and their sons were gone from the farm, taken away by the draft, and taken away by munitions plants. One man made the statement that he and his wife and his wife's sisters were cultivating a farm where they produce a good deal of truck for the Dallas market. He would get on his truck along about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, go to Dallas, come back and get on his tractor, and they would work as long as they could see.

He stated-and I know this to be a fact—that his nephew,working in one of the munitions plants, was making more money than he and his wife and his wife's sister were making with their farm, their tractor, and their truck.

A man out in the community where I used to live, whom I have known all his life, a man by the name of Wallace—I am giving you some concrete things—was running a little dairy out there, selling milk to his neighbors, selling at the cheapest price at which he could sell, which was 10 cents a quart delivered. Washington came along here and froze not the price of milk but the selling price of each individual.

think how smart that was. Mr. Wallace was having to compete with these munition plants for labor. Feed was up, the farmer could not continue selling at 10 cents, and he went to Dallas to see if he could not get permission to raise the price of his milk to 12 cents. He offered to bring in a petition from his customers stating that they wanted him to raise the price to 12 cents. But he was not permitted to do that. He has to go out of the picture. One of the big chains sell to these same people for 14 cents. His cows, some of them at least, go to the slaughterhouse.

I went down in Ellis County; I used to represent these people. They had a fine local dairy at their county seat town. The people were proud of it. The proprietor got caught at a 12-cent ceiling. He could not continue business at 12 cents. What is the smart thing that happened? His cows, that were not ready to go to slaughter, were put in trucks—just think of this—and hauled up to Fort Worth, about 40 or 50 miles away, in order that the milk from those cows could be sold at 14 cents, because the purchaser's ceiling was 14 cents.

I would like to make this clear. I am not taking this time for the purpose of criticizing; I am not taking this time to try to embarrass anybody, but we have a job to do. I mean that we have a job to do in America, for our people are going hungry, and we will fall down on next year's requirements. I don't know but that we have waited until it is now too late. Some people have been trying to do something about this for many months—pointing out the danger of our policy. They were denounced as a farm bloc.

I have talked to farmers all over the country, and the statement they make to me is that the acreage next year will be reduced from 15 to 25 percent, because they cannot get sufficient labor on their farms to cultivate the acreage of this year, and that the cultivation would be of a lower quality. The farmers want to do this job.

One year ago there were 137 retail dairies in Dallas County, my county. When I was home only 27 were left. In their desperation a group of dairymen from the neighborhood of Dallas and Fort Worth came up to Washington to see if they could get permission to increase prices so they could stay in business. I went with them. They stated the situation to these "powers that be." They pleaded for some encouragement that they might persuade some dairymen to hold on a little longer. The only promise they got was that the matter would be studied.

I got this wire from Mr. A. B. Jolley, the agricultural agent of my county, who headed this group which came up here to appeal to Washington for the opportunity to live and do their part toward meeting a part of the food requirements which the Secretary of Agriculture is talking about. It came some days after these people returned home. This is the wire:

Request for increased milk price turned down. Action will force large numbers of producers out of milk production. Results will be disastrous to war efforts. Three herds being sold today.

Three herds in that one little county. Now I understand e they are talking about subsidizing. You cannot subsidize a cow into producing milk that has gone to the slaughterhouse. These men came up here not to ask for aid, but to ask for permission for the modification of their price and they did not get it.

I saw in the papers recently that the A. A. A. personnel is to be doubled in my State next year, and there is an elaborate program requiring some more people to be taken out of production and turned in to eat out of the war chest, while ordering around and shifting about these American fanners who are already harassed to the breaking point.

As a matter of fact, however, what we are complaining about is that our bureaucratic Government, which we have pretty well developed now—it is not absolute, but it is just about—we are complaining that bureaucracy is acting now according to the nature of a bureaucracy. Do I make myself clear on that? We are complaining that bureaucracy is now in America acting according to the way bureaucracy acts. It is doing to this people as it is the nature of a bureaucracy to act toward a people whom it is governing. People are complaining that a bureaucracy is doing to them what it is in the nature of a bureaucracy to do to the people. That is the fundamental fact about it.

I do not know what you have seen, but when I went around and listened to those people, realizing what they were up against, I observed the finest spirit, and for those who really believe in democratic government and hope to see it live in this country, the most hope-inspiring upsurge of democratic impulse, democratic fitness, and disposition upon the part of the people to stand on their feet that I have seen since the First World War. That is what some people cannot understand here in Washington. Just when it looked as if the people were completely doped by borrowed money and were ready for wholesale regimentation by them, this manifestation comes up from the body of the American people. It is a remarkable thing; it is a fascinating thing to see people break loose before it is too late, people who are awakening from having been doped by borrowed money got by mortgaging the taxpaying power of their children and their children's children. It reminds me of the kid we country people see sometimes being toted around at circus—and the folks believe in carrying him—and after a while he gets a bit restless and begins kicking and raising the dickens. He wants to get down and walk on his own feet. That is the suggestion of nature to him, that he has got to do it or lose the ability to walk. That is exactly what has happened to the people in America where the democratic instincts and impulses of the people are not dead, and some people do not seem to realize it.

God Almighty has intended that people shall be free to run their own business under their own laws and be the masters of their own government. In the goodness of God Almighty He has put it somewhere in the nature of people, a sort of instinct that seems to warn them when they are in danger of losing their ability to govern, to get down and stand on their own feet and exercise their capacity to govern before they lose it by its non-use. That is what has happened in America. There is not a bit of doubt about it. It is a fine thing. It is an essential thing. It has happened without any assistance from the powers that be here in Washington. There is too much ambition for a place in history as a great governor of a people, rather than an earnest desire to be a useful servant of a great people which is the only aspiration a public official in a democracy has any right to have.

I want to make this statement clear: When we talk about bureaucrats we are not talking about the honest, earnest Federal employee, conscious of the fact that he is not the governor of the people but the servant of the people, undertaking to operate economically and fairly the functioning machinery of the Federal Government and doing a good job for his Government. His position and security are imperiled by this enormous army of 2,500,000 people piled up on the overburdened backs of the American taxpayers by the sort of government here in Washington, constantly increasing the tax burden and narrowing the tax base. We are not talking about them. We are talking about this bunch of people who do not appear to know anything about the American Government and care less, who have worked their way into the functioning machinery of this Government. Some of them do not much more than get into this country until they are trying to tell us how to run this Government. Those are the people I am talking about, and the people who are tied in with them. By the way, do not think that these old boys in the forks of the creek are not doing some thinking. They are doing it with the thing that is on the top of their own spinal columns as they have not done in 25 years. For a while they were swallowing this canned thinking passed out by these radio people and columnists, swallowing the whole thing can and all. They realized they were getting some intellectual indigestion and they are beginning at least to open the can and examine its contents before they swallow it. That is a fine thing in this country. I am not criticizing the columnists and these radio speakers. They are all right. They are merchants of words. They are selling words. Some of them are smart. Under the law of averages many of them have got some good stuff scattered in their words. They must have it, with as many words as they are marketing, but there is no human being who can know as many things as they pretend to know; and the folks are catching on to it. There was a time in my country when if anybody in Washington was talking, the general attitude was, "Keep quiet," as though God were talking.

No longer, thank God, no longer. We are developing in America a breed of people fit to be free, a great breed—and it is a great responsibility for Members of this House to represent such a people. They are willing to do the job; they are way ahead of us. I think there is not a bit of doubt but that the strength and the will and the wisdom to save America are coming up from the body of the people. It has to come from that source.

I have made some examinations; in fact, I have examined lots of things. I came into this world knowing nothing and I realized it. I never had been here before and I was curious about the world into which I had been born. I have not been able to accept things as facts because somebody I had confidence in knew them. I had to work them out through my own machinery; and the process has been slow. I discovered very shortly after my arrival on this earth that there is a big boss, a great God, a plan, design, and execution. If anybody wants really to know how a thing should be done, he should not be traipsing after fellows who have got a lot of theories; he should look for the purpose and the plan of the Big Boss, and the purpose and the plan of the Big Boss, it is clear to see, is to develop people.

Upon that one thing is focused all the energies of God Almighty, as far as we are concerned, and that plan is to have the people do things. That is why this general plan of a great Federal overlord messing around with everybody and everything, doing the planning and thinking for a nation, has to break down. A free government is the sort of government designed by God Almighty for the people of the earth. That is why they naturally aspire to be free. That aspiration makes them struggle with the problems of government, just as that country kid at the circus wants to struggle with the difficulties of walking. Thereby he develops his strengthto walk and later to run, and later to have the strength of a sturdy man. It is a God-implanted aspiration. He has provided a thing to guide men in the operation of their government. That thing is public opinion. It is well to note that; you cannot make it, for it is an arrangement of nature—public opinion—not the opinion from Washington, not the opinion from officeholders, but that magnificent fascinating thing that comes up from the body of a people fit to be free. God Almighty has provided it as the only safe guide for people who would be free. Public opinion is beginning to assert itself again. Oh, the opportunity of the American Congress now to help the American people as they seek to fight their way back through the confusion of these times and stand again on this earth as a free people fit to guide and govern themselves. Of course, it is conceded that extraordinary powers must be given to the Executive now in order that our Government may have a stronger power and a quicker pick-up than our institutions functioning normally can provide, but that does not mean that advantage shall be taken or permitted of the public peril from without to increase the public peril from within by those who would substitute a bureaucrat for our democracy. We need all the powers moved away from Washington that are not essential to the conduct of this war, back into the smaller units of government and back into the people that we may better devote ourselves here to winning this war and in order that the people, by the exercise of their capacity can increase their governmental power and make their maximum contributions.

You know, in a way, it is bad that these things are as they are; but, after all, it is sort of good, for these conditions that are not right are acting as a mustard plaster on a heretofore lethargic condition. The people cannot stand this thing any longer. Think of these farmers. Their boys are in the war. They are their boys, their war, their country, their responsibility. They want to get up, are willing to get up, before it is daylight and work until dark, but Washington will not let them sell their stuff at a price that will enable them to hire the labor or keep their own kids on the farm in order to do their jobs, their duty to this country. The bureaucrats want to regiment them, want to freeze labor on the farm, and do all that sort of messy stuff. All those old boys with corns in their hands need is to be let alone so far as this pestiferous program is concerned, and be given a chance. This morning I read in the paper another Associated Press story headed "Farmers Face Penalties for Not Producing."

I quote:

Farmers Face Penalties for not Producing

(By Paul H. Barkley, Associated Press staff writer)

Stressing a need for meeting war-crop goals, the Department of Agriculture announced yesterday that farmers who fail to achieve the production allotments next year will be penalized by stiff deductions from their Federal crop subsidies.

* * * * *

The Department said failure of farmers to plant at least 90 percent of their allotments for corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, tobacco, and wheat would result in payment deductions at a rate five times the rate of payment.

* * * * *

"The farm plans will be a virtual blue-print of intended 1943 production," the Department said, "and will be worked out by each farmer with the assistance of Agricultural Adjustment Administration committeemen."

* * * * *

The Department said the goals would be distributed on the basis of adaptability of soil, availability of cropland, equipment and labor, past acreage of war crops, and other related factors.

When these farmers get hold of their papers today, that is what they will see. If it were deliberately planned to break down the morale of these harassed farmers, how better could it be done? They are asked to raise more beef when they cannot get wire for their farms. They are asked to produce more milk with their dairy cows forced to the slaughterhouse. They are asked to produce more crops with their farms stripped of the necessary manpower and are now threatened with penalties if they do not do that which the policy of this Government makes impossible for them to perform.

Note the last paragraph, which reads:

The Department said the goals would be distributed on the basis of adaptability of soil, availability of cropland, equipment and labor, past acreage of war crops, and other related factors. * * *

The farmer must take time out of his fields to sit in, or at least be somewhere around, when he is told by some more Federal personnel about the adaptability of his soil, availability of cropland, equipment and labor, past acreage of war crops, and other related factors, and where he is to plant what.

There is another thing I found out among these farmers. I do not know whether you people know farmers so well or not, but I want to tell you that the man who works out in the open, who walks in the silent places, is thinking and thinking clearly.

The farmers cannot understand it. They cannot understand how it is when they are conscious of the fact that they want to do a job that somebody up here will not permit them to do the things which are necessary for them to do the job. They just cannot understand that. They do not like this trend that indicates a disposition not to let them take care of their own business, a trend that is putting more and more Federal employees, who do not help them, at the job of ordering them around. They are getting pretty tired of being ordered around.

Mr. Speaker, you would be surprised how much those fellows out there know about what is going on. They know that we now have on the Federal pay roll around two and one-half million people operating the kind of government we are running and that the salaries of those people total up toward $5,000,000,000 per annum. They have caught on to the fact that the cost of those plants and projects that we are putting in our districts do not come out of thin air. They are catching on to the fact that we have been running for office on projects built by money that we led them to believe we got from Uncle Sam. They know these projects are not paid for and they know that we have mortgaged the taxpaying power of their children and their children's children to the third, fourth, or fifth generation. They know that anybody can make a big showing on borrowed money. They do not like that any more. They would like to have the chance to run their own business.

They told me about ammunition plants and factories down there. People are working there 5 days a week. One man who is running a farm, working 14 hours a day, stated in one of our meetings that he has a nephew down there working on a 40-hour-a-week basis. He works 5 days a week and gets more money than he, his wife, and her sister, the three of them, could make on the farm, putting the farm in on the proposition. They are talking about all those

things. These boys and girls who have gone into those plants go back home on Sunday and tell the people what they are doing and what they are getting. They know this Government is paying those wages. What do these farmers have to say? The farmer says, "Well, I want to keep going, but I cannot keep this dairy running at the prices I am getting, and they will not let me raise my price." Farm labor is gone and yet we have this program for increased production. One old, sweating farm boy who knows his stuff is worth more than three recruited laborers put out there. What do you think the farmer boy who is listening has in his head? Has he the thought in his head to go home and work on that farm when his cousin is working at the plant making more money than the whole outfit? Those are some of the practical propositions.

I hope you will believe me when I say I am not attempting to criticize anybody. I am speaking here as one of the hired men of the Nation that is fighting with its back to the wall in the greatest war of all time, recognizing that we have to feed these people from the products of our farms and that we have to feed our allies if they are to have the physical strength necessary to win this war. This is everybody's job. We do a very dangerous thing by denuding these farms of their labor, handicapping and harassing with time-consuming pestiferous regulations the manpower still on these farms.

I do not want to go into details. My purpose now is to lay the picture before the Congress of the United States and before the people of the United States as it was revealed to me in my contact with farmers.

There is confusion frequently between public opinion and group desires for their own advantage. I do not believe that public opinion for the guidance of government can come from any people other than those who love their country withpatriotic fervor and want to do the fair, just thing, and who have in their hearts a keen desire to know the truth and the will to follow that truth wherever it may lead. Under those conditions God in the plan of nature puts into operation the machinery that brings about public opinion. The earnestness of desire to know that which is right, and the heat of discussion—like the heat that melts the gold in low-grade ore and separates the gold from the dross—separates the dross of ignorance, prejudice, selfishness, and predisposition, and leaves public opinion, that which is nature's supreme law among free peoples, provided for the guidance of public policy.

My judgment is that for the first time in 25 years the American people are going to assume the responsibilities of leadership.

I had intended incorporating excerpts from the statements made by the farmers whom I contacted, but it has become evident similar statements have been made to many of you. From the standpoint of the vital national and world interest imperiled by our agricultural difficulties, it is best candidly to face them. They challenge this Nation's best contribution. All we can do cannot fully correct our mistakes. It was a most unfortunate thing that the consideration of these matters on their merits, when the element of time was not so pressing, was prejudiced by the denunciation as a farm bloc of those who warned of the dangers.

I know that there are those of my party who will not be pleased by what I have said, but I make bold to advance this prophecy that if the Democratic Party is to survive, it can only survive as the champion of the principles of democracy, which is a government by the people and a government of laws, and not a government by regulations. A government by regulations is not a democracy.