Our Great Stake in Agriculture
FOOD WILL DETERMINE THE FUTURE COURSE OF THE WORLD
By LOUIS BROMFIELD, Author,
Delivered before the Executives' Club of Chicago, March 30, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 470-474.THANK you very much, Mr. Chairman. Members of The Executives' Club of Chicago, in talking to you today, I am hoping to put before you one or two new ideas. I am hoping to stimulate new thoughts but most of all I am attempting to strike at the fundamentals of some of the serious problems which face us today. We live in an era of nostrums and panaceas, of demagogic promises and of cranks and amateur economists who have, as never before in history, been given an opportunity to try out their theories on the people at the expense of the people of this nation. All too often we are inclined, in these times, to mistake the symptoms of the disease for the disease itself. All too often we have attempted to cure a stomach ulcer by applying a poultice to the exterior of the abdomen. Usually the poultice is in the form of money, of sudsidies, of bribes, of regulations.
Some of us have abused organizations like the P.A.C. The P.A.C. is not a disease; it is a symptom of a disease—in this case of the growing industrial population without economic security gathered into great cities which votes to be taken care of and follows any man who will promise it privileges and security. This is the proletariat population which Karl Marx foresaw a hundred years ago—the industrial population, owning nothing, without a stake in the nation and dependent upon a daily wage. Its lack of property, of economic security, its increasing numbers, is the disease. By voting always to be taken care of, it can, without violent revolution, simply vote democracy out of existence—a process which indeed has already begun.
The real disease lies in the great industrial concentrations and the abnormal conditions which breed not only racketeering and vice but the radical and foreign political ideas which threaten our American traditions and institutions. You will not find the enemies of our American beliefs in the rural areas nor the small towns but only in the great urban concentrations, which throughout history have been the index of the decline of nations and for the same reason that holds good with us today—that they create great masses of population without economic security, owning nothing, and without any stake in government or nation. Of all this, the P.A.C. is merely a symptom. We shall never cure the illness by attacking the symptom but by going to the root of the disease, which is the decentralization of industry into smaller communities and rural areas where men can own something, have a stake in the nation and have a reasonably normal life for themselves, their wives and their children.
During the colossal industrial development of the past hundred years in this country, prosperity has nearly always been spoken of in terms of industry and markets for industry, and lately in terms of labor and jobs. There has been small attention paid to agriculture. Indeed, in all the talk ofpostwar planning, the word agriculture is scarcely ever heard. The proponents of that silly political slogan—60 million jobs—are thinking always in terms of industrial jobs. Yet the fact remains that agriculture and food, in this country and in every nation not based upon an artificial, perilous economy like that of England, are the very foundation of the nation's economy.
The Death of a Farm
In a piece written for the Reader's Digest some months ago, I took a ruined farm which lies over the hill from my own place in Ohio and analyzed what its death meant to the community. It has on it a big, once handsome brick house of twelve rooms, a barn that fell down a year ago. The once fertile fields are growing over with sumac, goldrenrod and dogwood. In our valley it is easy to trace through legends and the memories of old people the history of a farm like the Mason Place. In its heyday there had lived in that brick house for three generations from twelve to twenty people. Together they had paid taxes, produced wool and butter and cattle and corn and dozens of other products which contributed to the wealth and plenty of the nation. The farm had paid taxes, deposited money in the banks, paid interest on borrowed money. It had been an economic asset which contributed to the nation's wealth. But more than that, it had produced three generations of healthy, strong, intelligent citizens including several school-teachers, a preacher three state legislators, a congressman, and a banker or two.
Then gradually the farm died, going through the stage of tenant, renter and squatter until it was deserted. Today the farm produces no wealth. It does not even pay taxes It has turned from a rich asset into a hopeless liability to the nation. If you offered it for sale on the courthouse steps no one would make an offer for it. Multiply this farm by four or five million other farms in the same or in a similar condition and it will give you an idea of what the loss of agricultural wealth and prosperity can mean to the nation as a whole.
The Farm Security Administration, indeed all the frequently criticized agricultural agencies, are not the disease. They are only the symptom of the disease whose roots lie in the soil erosion, wasteful cutting of forests, poor farming methods, dislocation of agricultural economy. Rural and small-town banks have been dying like flies, not because the government intervened and took over their business but because the natural wealth of the communities in which existed, declined to the point where they could no longer make loans and operate. The government was forced to step in. In two or three areas in the nation where the local banker had vision enough to see beyond the mere business of loaningmoney and became a leader in his community, seeking to correct the evils I have mentioned, both community and banker have prospered enormously and there is little or no need of federal intervention. The story of my friend, Mr, Bailey, and what he was able to do along these lines in seven counties on the Tennessee-Kentucky border has been told in detail both by Fortune Magazine and the Readers Digest. Bailey was striking at the disease and not complaining of the symptoms.
Even America Has a Peasantry Now
Once we boasted in America that we had neither proletariat nor a peasantry. We can no longer hold that boast. The proletariat is with us in the great cities, a growing power and a growing menace to democracy which is founded upon the middle class with a stake in the nation and cannot exist without it. In the rural districts, especially south of the Mason-Dixon Line, we have millions of farmers and villagers living at the level of poor European peasants. Many thousands live at the level of Chinese peasants. Most of you have seen them, living in hovels a middle-western farmer would be ashamed of as a pigsty. They live on wretched diets on an average agricultural income of $168; which means that many a family has to live on much less than that. Worse still, the miserable diet is raised upon soils so eroded and exhausted that it no longer contains enough calcium and enough phosphorous and trace minerals to promote bone and brain and vigor, or, in other words, to produce a moderately good physical specimen.
The answer to these people is not subsidies, or W.P.A. or relief in terms of money. Those measures are only poultices and very expensive ones to the taxpayer. They solve nothing. The measures which are the only real answer to the problem of American peasantry are in the following order of importance—restoration of the soil so that it can produce physical specimens capable of education, or removal to better soils and conditions, better diet, better agricultural methods, better opportunities, perhaps through introduction of industry into those areas. The introduction of industry as a part of a wise and inevitable decentralization, if we are to save our system of free enterprise, would do much to raise the income and living standards of the great agriculturally blighted areas. It would also cause automatically an adjustment of freight rates of which the south is always complaining. Railroads cannot operate at cheap rates where there is nothing to haul out of an area and because of poverty little or no market within that area for manufactured products.
In addition to this peasantry we had the problem before the war of eight or nine million migratory workers who took to the road in jalopies to find work where they could. They were tenant farmers or dispossessed from land that could no longer support them. They worked from three to four months a year and were on relief the rest of the time. They lived in jalopies or sheds built of old packing cases. Their children without home life and with little or no moral influence and education were growing up as vagabonds. Temporarily the Army and the labor crisis have absorbed most of this migratory element, but after the war it will be hack with us.
City People Are Footing the Bills
How does all this agricultural problem affect the city folk? In every possible way, first of all directly through the pocketbook. People in cities, even people who have never seen a farm, are paying more and more in taxes each year to provide the money for the poultices of relief and made-work which cure nothing and produce no economic return.
Few people realize that our cities do not replenish their populations. If left to themselves without recruits from rural areas and small towns, our cities would wane and presently die. Now there is a twist to this. It is that our rural population is increasing at the wrong end—that is to say our prosperous and solid farm element produces on an average of only three children per family. The lower the income, the greater the economic insecurity, the poorer the diet and education—the larger the family. I am speaking in purely physical terms. It is not necessarily a reproach to the people themselves that the condition of these American peasants is wretched. Very often they are the victims of ignorance, of certain social and economic injustices, but these facts do not alter their gravity of their increase in number and the decrease in their capacity for education, for vigorous and efficient work. You in the cities have had to deal with them, for they are increasingly the source of your labor supply. You know that the quality of labor is constantly decreasing. The race troubles in Detroit were made almost entirely by the members of the underprivileged peasantry, both black and white, imported from poor agricultural areas during the shortage of manpower.
Meanwhile this peasant element is beginning to line up with the proletarian element in voting to be taken care of by the State. They are learning the trick of tapping the upper levels of income, of profits, of industry and of capital which should supply the means of their employment and consequently of their security. Only a few days ago, James Patton, President of the Farmers' Union, which has a close tie-up with the C.I.O. and whose membership is largely drawn from the poorer agricultural element, announced that a Political Action Committee would be formed within the ranks of his organization. There will be few prosperous farmers on such a committee. It will be made up of the underprivileged and the dispossessed. Political Action Committees do not appeal to the middle class—the bourgeoisie—whom Marx properly regarded and hated as the most solid bulwark against Communism.
I call your attention to these symptoms. We cannot cure them by poultices, but only by going to the root of the diseases. If we do not cure them we are headed straight for totalitarian government, voted into it by those who must be taken care of. Much of the answer lies in decentralization and in a sounder and more profitable agriculture and management of our precious natural resources.
Agriculture Supports 52% of Our People
Few people realize that approximately 52 per cent of the population derive the major part of their income from agriculture. That is not to say that 52 per cent of the population are farmers. They are people in small towns and villages up to cities as large as Montgomery, Alabama, or Des Moines, Iowa, whose income and prosperity are almost wholly dependent upon agriculture—all the people who perform services such as filling-station operators, and who sell radios and work in grain elevators and dry-goods stores. Beyond all these there is the whole of the huge agricultural machinery business, a large part of the oil and gasoline and steel industries, the great mail order houses like Montgomery Ward, Sears Roebuck and a huge share indeed of every major business and industry in the United States.
It is not difficult to see why agriculture in itself is the key industry and the very foundation of American economic life. When the farmer has not the money to go to town and buy a radio or a tire or an automobile, it means simply that four or five men are going to be out of work in Detroitor Chicago or Pittsburgh. When agriculture becomes sick, the sickness quickly permeates the whole of the economic structure. Since the Civil War we have never had any genuine prosperity but only a series of booms and depressions, of inflations and deflations which almost invariably have begun at the agricultural end when low agricultural prices could not afford the high cost of industrial labor and the products of industry. When this condition arises, there can be only one result—a severe shrinking of markets and increasing unemployment.
Much of the failure of the New Deal and of the economic thinking of our times is based upon the illusion that money is wealth. Money is no more than a convenient way of evading the necessity of clumsily doing business by barter. No one will ever be able to calculate what this war has cost us in money, because most of it has simply gone round and round from bank to employer, to employee, to farmer, to government. But that is not the only reason. The value of currency is based throughout the world today not upon gold but upon what it can buy. The dollar today in comparison with the dollar of Washington's time is worth from 5 to 15 cents. As compared to the dollar of 1939 it is worth about sixty cents. In terms of what it will buy, some economists place the estimate even lower, as low as forty cents. No one will be able to estimate the cost of this war in terms of money, which is not wealth. It can be measured, however, accurately and disastrously, in terms of the number of trees we have cut down, the soil that has been destroyed under high-pressure production, the amounts of coal, iron ore and other metals and minerals which have been mined, processed and sent out of the country. It can be measured in the decline of vigor in a people forced by scarcities of food into a protein-deficient diet, and in the Service Men picked for their brains and physical perfection, who have been maimed and killed. These are our real wealth—the natural and human resources which as a nation we have squandered and exploited since the beginning. Beside it money is nothing at all. Real wealth, material wealth, is the only basis of a nation's prosperity and health.
A Grave Economic Fallacy
The whole philosophy of scarcity, of high wages and high prices is one of the great errors of our times and the people are beginning to find it out. And it too is founded upon the illusion of money rather than the fact of real wealth. In the economic cycle there is one fact from which it is impossible to escape. It is this—that when labor secures a raise, the raise is passed on by the manufacturer to the consumer, and the consumer, including about 52 per cent of the population dependent upon agriculture, must have higher prices for his services and for the food he produces. As the level of living costs again catches up with the level of labor's raise in wages, and the working man is no better off than before, labor asks and perhaps gets another raise and the same vicious spiraling system continues.
In France I have seen the process climb to a point where government had to run the printing presses day and night in order to turn out enough paper money to permit ordinary everyday business to carry on. In Germany the situation under the Weimar Republic was much worse, for the spiraling inflation, deliberately encouraged, finally made the cost of a newspaper about 10 million marks. In all history there has been no more striking example of the absurdity of money as wealth. It is manifestly clear that if a loaf of bread costs one dollar and the consumer is being paid $2000 a month, he is no better off than if a loaf of bread costs five cents and the consumer is being paid $100 a month.
I take the case of a loaf of bread because food is by far the greatest determining factor in the general cost of living. A man can live in a tent or a shack and possess but one suit of clothes but he cannot do without food. The cost of food is the basis upon which organized labor has determined its fight for wage raises. It has not been a fair or a very intelligent fight because organized labor has sought to secure higher wages while it sought to stabilize or reduce the cost of food. It has made the fight under unfair and abnormal conditions when a war boom in industry created more jobs than there were men. In normal times high wages for the industrial worker and low prices for the farmer would have largely stifled the buying power of the 52 per cent of the population largely dependent upon agriculture and so the plans of labor would have back-fired and reduced markets and so created unemployment to put labor back into a weak position in which there were more men than jobs. But under war boom conditions factories are largely engaged in manufacturing tanks, guns and bombs which are not bought in the open market by the citizens of the nation but are bought and paid for through grim necessity with the citizen's money taken from him in the form of taxes. In war time organized labor does not need to worry about losing jobs because 52 per cent of the population cannot buy what it produces. The government takes the money from the citizen by force to buy what labor produces and the nation in time of crisis must have. In war time organized labor is perfectly safe to demand what in peace time it would not dare to demand.
Organized Labor Pressing an Advantage
When the unfairness and impracticability of organized labor's campaign for higher wages and stabilized or lower food prices became evident, labor sought to correct the situation by the dodge of forcing subsidies upon the unwilling farmer. This again was short-thinking in terms of money. The vast subsidies had to be paid by somebody and the somebody was, of course, the taxpayers, whose living costs mounted not perhaps in terms of food prices (save in the black market) but of onerous taxes. Labor, bolstered by the artificial demand for manpower caused by a war was, by and large, the great beneficiary at the expense of the rest of the nation. Its tactics, whether by seeking direct raises in wages or indirect gains in the form of agricultural subsidies, were attempting to create an inflation from which labor, under a return to peace-time conditions, would suffer most in terms of inevitable deflation.
It would appear from all I have said that I believe that food is the greatest determining factor in the cost of living, that agriculture is our fundamental economic resource, and that the stabilization of the price of food at a level which still permits the fanner an honest profit is the best basis for the genuine, balanced prosperity which we have not known in this country since the Civil War. That is exactly what I believe. The question is how it can be done,I do not pretend to have the whole of the answer and if I had there would not be time here to expound it thoroughly. I do know, I think, some of the answer.
I have been accused, largely for political reasons, of having cried "Famine!" two or three years ago. So far as I know I never have used the word famine in connection with this country although I have used it frequently and rightly in connection with India, with China, with Russia and with the Europe of these times. The food shortages I predicted are already with us and have been for some time. Virtually all of the nation, save only the farmers, are living today upon a protein-deficient diet which will leave its marks upon the health and vigor of the population for years to come.
The legacy of food shortages in Europe during and after the Rist World War left marks which carried on into the Second War. As I have already pointed out, the health and vigor of a nation's people are a part of its real wealth. The shortages and deficiencies of food, the black markets, the economic dislocations pervading the whole of the food pic-tore have not come from any real shortage up to now, but through the mismanagement, irresponsibility and confusion of the Government all along the food front. The farmer has done his job of production, but not without a great cost to himself and to his soil, both great assets in the list of our real wealth. We shall be feeling the effects of the strain a hundred years hence in the destroyed fertility of millions of acres of soil which should never have been farmed at all or which have been overworked. That so much of this cost has been wasted by confusion, bad distribution and allocation, and the experiments of amateur economists is the real tragedy.
Food Shortage Fosters Wars
Food shortages and the high cost of foods lie at the root not only of nationally demoralized black markets but also at the very root of the Civil War and rise of Communism which threaten the whole of Europe. History may be determined far more in terms of food than in the planning at Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco and Bretton Woods. Russia and Stalin understand that when they go quietly ahead taking over some of the richest food-producing lands of Europe.
Not only is there a necessity for an abundance of food to keep down the costs and annihilate black markets. There must be better distribution now and in the future, not only in the whole of the world and the nation but in the County and Township. In peace time about 40 million citizens of this country suffer from malnutrition, which is simply another way of saying starvation in terms of quality rather than quantity. This is so, partly because of ignorance, partly because of poverty, but even more because of the high costs of high-protein foods and the fact that these seek always the high-priced markets. Forty million people suffering from malnutrition does not build a great or a strong nation, either physically or economically.
Beyond the perimeter of this country there live in India 200 millions of people who are born and die without ever having had enough to eat one day in their lives. The same is true of China. And added to these are the millions in suffering Europe. There has never been and there is not today enough food in the world. Let us not deceive ourselves, Germany and Japan made war not because of a fanatic nationalism in terms of Nazi or Bushido philosophy. All this was only a symptom of the deeper, truer cause—the demand and necessity for more food and more raw materials for their rapidly increasing populations—a demand and necessity translated into terms of fanatic nationalism by shrewd and unscrupulous politicians.
There has never been enough food in the world. The American farmer cannot produce too much if proper outlets and distribution are found for it. The advocates of scarcity are not only fools—they are evil men and enemies of the human race. The extreme example of their folly occurred during the last great depression when the idiocy of poor distribution was never more clearly illustrated than in cities like Omaha and Kansas City where people fainted in the streets from hunger while farmers killed pigs and burned wheat and corn for fuel only ten miles away. The advocates of scarcity also think in terms of money—the money which shallow thinkers inevitably use as the poultice to cure the stomach ulcer of fundamental economic illness.
Five Acres Required Where One Should Do
You might say that better distribution would mean greater demand and higher prices for food but this need not necessarily be so. The real crux of the matter is how can the farmer produce more food at lower prices and still have a good profit to reward his efforts. The answer lies in production costs, and first among these is the always fundamental fact of fertility. Let us face the fact that the average American farmer is cultivating five acres of land to produce what one acre should produce. This assertion is about as near as my own investigations have been able to establish. The U. S. Soil Conservation Service is inclined to place the ratio even higher. Let us analyze what this means to the cost of food. It means that in terms of seed, of fertilizer, of gasoline, of wear and tear on machinery and man, in labor costs, the average farmer is spending five times as much as he needs to in producing a given amount of food. All these elements are reflected in the high cost of foods and still the farmer, even in war time is not becoming a millionaire. Why is this so? The answer is simple enough.
Through soil erosion and bad farming methods and the employment of millions of acres of land which is not, properly speaking, agricultural land at all but grazing and forest land which should never have been turned by a plow. Largely speaking the productiveness of our land has been declining steadily since it was first put into cultivation. Almost never has the rule of the Danish, French or Dutch farmer been observed—"make every acre produce its potential maximum without lessening the fertility of the soil itself." Let us suppose that we followed that rule. We should be able to produce the same amount of food we are producing today on a fourth or a fifth of the land now under cultivation, with a fourth or a fifth of the amount of labor, time, gasoline, and fertilizer expense. Would this not be reflected in a perceptibly lowered cost of food and in stabilized prices?
Second to the basic element of fertility comes, I think, the question of technology—the technology not only of machinery but what might be called the technology of plants and animals. In the second field hybrid corn is the outstanding example of how production and profits may be increased and prices lowered by improved seed and varieties of vegetables. It is true today that the average farmer is feeding three cows to produce the milk that one cow should produce on one third the feed with one third the labor. The same holds true largely all the way down the line with beef cattle, hogs, chickens, etc. Suppose all these wastes were corrected? Would it not have an effect both in a lowered cost of food and increased profits for the farmer?
Mechanization of Farms Essential
In our agricultural technology the question of farm machinery plays a larger and larger part; and fortunately so because the ratio between low but profitable food costs and farm machinery are closely related. Animal power is both wasteful and expensive in the production of food and throughout the world contributes both to the low level of production and the high costs of food. I am not speaking only of the difference in cost involved in feeding a horse whether he works or not. That, however real, is merely superficial in comparison to other differences. As a practical farmer, I know that in order to do the work on a thousand acres it would require at least twelve teams to do the work of three tractors. That would not only mean a larger overall investment of capital, but it would mean the hiring of twelve men to manage the teams, and the comparison of costs in time and labor is so striking that horses are ruled out without question as impossible.
The invention of the McCormick Reaper caused a revolution in the production of wheat and small grains throughout the world. Farm machinery has carried on that revolution in food production, but it has gone only half or less of the whole way. Until recently, farm machinery, largely speaking, has failed to keep pace with technological machinery in other fields of production. It remained clumsy, expensive, breakable and often badly serviced. This was partly so be-because a partial monopoly existed in the farm machinery industry and partly because the interest of the large farmer were considered more often than those of the small farmer. Occasionally there appeared an isolated implement whose excellence and advance approached that of machinery in other fields, but there was no evidence of concerted action or planning to bring farm machinery up to date. I have been accused of favoring the product of one farm machinery company over all the others. That is true and I did so and continue to do so because that company has shown vision in producing a whole system of machinery which is light, modern, practical, convenient and is designed for efficiency and with the needs of all farmers in view. Such a system can make the same world revolution in food costs and production on a broader scale which the McCormick Reaper accomplished in its time. It can make for great production of food at lower costs. It can enable the dispossessed industrial worker with an eight hour day and five day week to engage in small and even large agricultural ventures which will bring him, under a program of decentralization, economic security and a stake in the nation. It can change his status from that of proletariat to the middle class without which democracy cannot exist.
New Farm Implements Needed
There is still much to be done in the field of farm machinery. There is great need for new implements to meet the demands of the agricultural revolution which is taking place, the machinery designed for the contour planting, the strip farming, the trash farming which can preserve and increase the fertility of our soil and lower the cost of our food. Of this aspect a whole book could be written. There is no time to go into it here. Suffice it to say that this agricultural revolution, together with better mechanized equipment and better distribution, can increase our abundance and stabilize our food costs at a low level, but one profitable to the farmer. All this can have an immense effect upon living costs, in checking inflation and in establishing a true and stable prosperity.
Certain of our natural resources like oil, metals and minerals cannot be replaced. When they are gone they are gone and they represent a large portion of our real and natural wealth. When they are exhausted, and they are nearer exhaustion than most people like to believe, substitutes will have to take their place and these substitutes will have to be grown in our soil by farmers. The importance of agriculture and fertility will not decrease. The demands made upon both will continue to grow. Our soil and our forests are the source of the plywoods, the plastics, the oils that are taking the place of resources which cannot be renewed.
At the beginning of the war the administration put forth a slogan "Food will win the Peace." It should have said, "No matter how much food we produce it will not be enough." It is clear, I think by now, that there is not enough food in the world or even enough for a good and healthy diet of the citizens of this country. To put more land under cultivation—non-agricultural land which should not be cultivated; or by overworking the fertile land now in use—in order to get greater production, is not the answer. Bydoing so we are destroying the greatest source of our real wealth.
Scale of Living Slipping
We are producing less and less and what food we produce is costing us more and more. If it takes six and presently seven acres of land to produce what one acre should produce instead of the present one to five ratio, food can only grow scarcer and more expensive while the margin of profits of the farmer diminishes in an equal ratio. The fact, still largely unperceived, is that while we in this country have exploited the natural resources which are our real wealth, we have been slipping steadily down in our living standards, to the level of peasantry and proletariat and have been mov* j ing toward a statism, a proletarian government which few of us want and which would render few of us happy, the work- \ ingman least of all. The truth is that democracy and free enterprise are the luxuries of a rich nation which poor countries cannot afford. As Great Britain, like ourselves, grow poorer in real wealth, she moves closer to pensions, subsidies 1 and a socialist "cradle to the grave" political philosophy. All of these things are not causes but symtoms. As Russia begins to feel the effect of the development of her great natural and real wealth she will move farther and farther away from Communism toward Democracy and free enterprise. She had, indeed, already begun to do so when a disastrous war intervened to check her progress.
Rashly the Administration promised to feed the world and now the promise cannot be kept.
It is probable that food or the lack of food will determine the future course of the world as much or more than all the conferences at Bretton Woods, at Dumbarton Oaks and Hot Springs. It will determine to a large degree the feeling between this country and many nations in the world. Indeed it has already done so in France and Belgium and Italy and it has caused friction in our relations with Great Britain, Canada and Australia. Food and the question of who shall deliver it has become a source of discord in Poland between ourselves and Russia. Food shortages can turn the rank and file of the American people to bitter isolationism. Food, its abundance, or its scarcity, can make or destroy the best plans for world peace and order. It is obvious that no structure of world government can survive which is not based upon a sound foundation of better distribution of food, of raw materials and of markets.
I need not go into how all these things can affect the lives of all of us, ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, whether we live on farms or in cities. I have tried to make the point that our real wealth is not in dollars but in our natural resources. No one here will argue that when they are gone we shall cease to be either a rich or a powerful nation. Among these resources our most important is soil upon which our agriculture is dependent. If industry and labor choose to ignore what happens to the soil and to agriculture they are on the way to suicide. Agriculture has existed since the beginning of time. Industry and industrial labor have existed less than 150 years which is a fraction of a second in historic time. Agriculture will be here when industry is gone and industrial labor is starving. As Liberty Hyde Bailey wrote long ago, "The farmer is the first man and he will be the last."
The points I would like to make are that our soil and the men who cultivate it are of vital importance to ourselves and to the world, and that we must include them first in all our thinking and planning. The farmer can do much, and by and large his record is a good one, but it is the job of all of us to cooperate with him and to safeguard and promote the agriculture upon which our very existence is founded. Thank you very much.