[ Broadcast over radio and television at 8:30 p.m. ]
Governor Stratton, Dr. Rodes, faculty and students of Bradley College, citizens of Peoria and of all Illinois--and my Fellow Americans:
The gracious hospitality of the people of this State is heartwarming indeed. I deeply appreciate your gracious greeting.
Especially I thank your chief executive--Governor Stratton. I have a strong liking for a man when he finds anything wrong in government he doesn't fool around but cleans it up fast.
I am glad to see here one who has become during these past four years my very good friend--Senator Everett Dirksen. He's a tough and good fighter--and I ought to know. These last years I have often asked his help and always he has given it wholeheartedly. Our program in Congress is the better for it. Our country needs Everett Dirksen back in the United States Senate.
Now, among the able contingent of Republicans that Illinois has in the United States House of Representatives are three that I would like to mention especially by name. Two of them have been my close associates in all policy meetings in the Republican leadership during the past several years. They are Les Arends and Leo Allen, and I think I would be remiss unless I mentioned one of the outstanding women Members of Congress, Mrs. Church.
Finally, I have had another good visit with Peoria's own son-Robert Michel. I most earnestly hope that he will soon represent this Congressional District. And I hope a lot more Republicans join him in the Congress.
Now tonight, my friends, I want to talk some facts to farm people. Now, of course, I do not address them as a group apart. In the broad sweep of governmental activity and of our way of life, they want the same things all other Americans want.
They want a government which is honest and thrifty, high in principle, and fair in practice.
They want an America of widening opportunity for all its citizens.
And they want an America able to guard and save the peace.
And they want all, not just some, of these things--for all these things are vital to the kind of America in which we believe: an America whose prosperity flourishes when we are at peace.
No farmer--no citizen--really believes in any theory of our nation divided into sealed compartments--so that a political promise made in one area is not supposed to be heard in another. No farmer--nor any citizen--will trust politicians who go to the cities to denounce inflation and come to the country to promise loose credit.
And, my friends, no citizen will trust any politician who promises expanded governmental expenditures, reduced taxes, and-at the same time--a balanced budget.
So let us--I repeat--talk facts--and begin with a little recent history.
For almost ten years, as farmers' costs have gone up, year after year farm prices have gone down. There are two exceptions when prices went up. One was the tragic year when Korean battlefields provided the kind of market that no one wants. The other is this year. And this year, there is no war.
What mainly caused that long, discouraging decline?
One thing only: political expediency in Washington, D.C.-- the refusal of high officials, after World War II, to help farmers readjust their production to the needs of peace.
And what were the results?
For one--Uncle Sam himself took up farming. Synthetic farmers behind Washington desks started telling farmers all over again what crops to plant--how much to grow--the amount to market--the price to charge. You know, farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.
So vast surpluses were buried away in government warehouses--those too are the results of politicking at the farmers' expense.
Now to the farmer--for all the rest of us--what have these results meant?
The value of the government stockpile of farm surpluses climbed to nine billion dollars.
The cost of storage alone has been one million dollars a day-none of it going to the farmers--and with farmers helping to pay the bill.
And these surpluses, by holding down farm prices, last year cost farm people some two billion dollars.
Beyond these things, we must credit the Democratic farm programs with an historic but hardly a commendable achievement.
You remember that in 1951 farm prices started back down in the very middle of the Korean War. In late 1952--the war still on--farm prices suddenly dropped faster than in any like period in recent years.
Now it takes rare talent to force farm prices down in the middle of a war. I have the feeling that in November farmers will see that that accomplishment gets its just reward.
Now you remember where agriculture was four years ago when the opposition political party still had to perform as well as talk. Here is where it was: Farm prices dropping--production unbalanced--world markets shrinking--surpluses soaring--farmers discouraged--and farm boys--many of them--in foxholes in Korea •
And yet, some politicians say that--to counteract the poisons spread by the old farm programs--farmers ought to swallow now the same programs all over again.
That line of thinking suggests that old story of Abe Lincoln's about a fence and a pig. The fence was so crooked that every time the pig went through it, he came out the same side he went in.
Lately it seems some people have gone the pig one better. On price supports they've come out on both sides of the fence.
So looking back to our starting point, I'd say we have come pretty far in 45 months. I offer a few facts to support that statement.
We freed peacetime agriculture from programs designed for war.
We eliminated stifling wartime controls.
We attacked menacing surpluses--head-on.
We regained many of the lost markets.
We helped the lowest-income people in agriculture.
We brought social security for the first time to operators of family farms.
We refunded to farmers the $60,000,000-a-year Federal tax on farm gasoline.
We started the great St. Lawrence Seaway project--the 30-year dream of Midwestern farm families.
We built a new program to meet the special needs of the dust bowl and the Great Plains.
We strengthened the sound farm programs.
And--we turned prices back up--without a war.
Now these accomplishments, important in themselves, may mean only a start--but they are a good start--on the great job ahead of us.
I have two things to say about this beginning.
First, the old price-depressing Democratic farm programs stayed in effect right up to harvest last year. Relentlessly they drove prices down as they had for years before. Eighty-five per cent of the price decline after the Korean War inflation came while rigid price supports were still in effect. Our opponents today are criticising the mess that they themselves left behind.
Second, recent developments prove that the clean-up part of our job is well on its way. Now agriculture has assurance again of a good future.
Part of that assurance comes from our new soil bank.
By stopping overproduction, the soil bank will stop more surpluses from building up. That's a great victory for every farmer and every taxpayer in America.
By withdrawing lands from cultivation, the soil bank conserves priceless soil for the future. That's a victory for every citizen in the land.
By providing special payments, the soil bank protects farmers' income while we use up the surpluses already on hand. Mark up another victory for the farmer.
This year the soil bank is retiring over 12 million acres and earning a half million farmers more than $260 million. When next year it retires 40 to 50 million acres, overproduction will start coming under control. That means better times for every farmer.
The opposition had a political field day on the soil bank. I asked for it on January 9. After that, I asked--time and again-for speed. In April the opposition passed a jumbled up bill ruinous to farmers. I vetoed that political grab bag and requested a workable program. This too was held up--hardly by accident--until after spring planting was done. That unnecessary delay cost farmers a full year in getting rid of the surpluses-their two billion dollar millstone. But we moved promptly to shore up farm income until we could make up for the time lost by the opposition politicking. The Administration raised 1956 price supports for wheat, corn, rice and dairy products, and extended the price support program to corn not under acreage control in the commercial states.
Now, some in the opposition party have claimed that they thought of the soil bank first. Now that I doubt, but I don't know what difference it makes. Just thinking about it is mighty little help. The opposition had 20 years to pass such a law. Instead they built up surpluses--going exactly in the opposite direction.
Now, what about the huge surpluses already on hand?
We have worked long and hard to regain world markets lost or dried up when we took office.
By June 1954, farm exports were up 4 percent, the following year, 7 percent more; last June, another 11 percent. Last year we moved two billion seven hundred million dollars worth of government stocks--a record amount. That was three times the amount moved in 1952 by our fast-talking, slow-acting opposition. With one exception--cotton--peacetime shipments of farm products are now the highest in 30 years.
Now the surpluses are in use at home too. Today five million of our people get government-owned food. Eleven million school children are served by the school lunch program. Low-cost milk is going to more than 62,000 schools. We have greatly expanded these programs. We will expand them still more.
All this adds up to one important fact: the toughest problems--lost markets, overproduction, surpluses--are giving way. Now opening up for farm people are brighter peacetime prospects than they have had for years.
Other dramatic advances add strength to those prospects.
First is our new Rural Development Program to help the lowest income families in farming. This is the first, widely coordinated, massive, Federal-State-Local effort ever directed toward helping the lowest income people in farming. The old rigid price support programs have always by-passed these 1 ½ million families while helping the big farms to get bigger. Now we are helping these neglected families get part-time jobs--easier credit--special training--technical advice--community guidance. This program promises low-income families a better future than they have ever known.
In this connection, I asked the Congress last January to study limiting the price support payments to any one individual. You know, some individual payments run over a million dollars. Now the opposition in Congress decided against any limitation--they were really too busy talking about their interest in the little farmer, but it was a strange way to show real concern for him.
Next, we expanded farm credit--another reason for new confidence. Our new law is especially helpful to young folks--many of them veterans--who borrowed heavily to start farming a few years back. Today the farm credit program is the best in history. The farm people have more say about farm credit management than ever before.
The list of accomplishments goes on--emergency help to farmers and ranchers suffering from such natural disasters as floods and droughts--broadened soil and water conservation-strengthened soil conservation districts--special programs to relieve market gluts of perishables--and expanded research and education.
Such are the things we have done toward rebuilding agriculture, so farm families can share fully in our country's prosperity. In that effort we must and do make good use of that valuable tool--price supports.
But let's get this point clear:
Rigidly fixing price supports at 90 percent of parity without regard to supply conditions--and so encouraging surpluses that depress market prices--is for the farmer, mockery and deceit. That kind of program compels drastic quotas, allotments, government regulation. It robs the farmer of a chance for full income parity. It is a program for politicians, not for farmers.
Full income parity is a full share in our country's good times. In a free agriculture, farmers can attain that kind of parity only in the market place. That's what I spoke for at Kasson four years ago: the attainment of that full share for the farmer--the preservation of a free agriculture. That's what I have been working for. I shall keep on working for it.
And the facts show good progress.
Today farm foreclosures are near an all-time low.
Today more farm operators own their farms than ever before.
Today the value of farm lands is at an all-time high.
Today farm income is at a billion dollar rate above last year.
And the long decline in farm prices has stopped. Prices today are higher than last April when I vetoed the hodge-podge that the politicians called a farm bill. Prices are 7 per cent higher than last December. They are higher than a year ago when high rigid price supports still applied to the so-called basic crops. This, of course, is no final solution. But--I repeat--this is a good start in the right direction.
Here are the ways we will continue in that same direction.
We will use the new soil bank to its full potential to bolster farm prices, conserve our soil, and balance farm production.
We will continue rapidly to use up our huge surpluses constructively at home and abroad.
We will maintain price supports carrying the essential principle of flexibility both to avoid the hurtful effects of high rigid supports and to encourage the production of crops in short supply.
We will keep the farm credit program, today the best in history, adjusted to the needs of family farmers.
We will carry forward our expanded soil and water conservation programs.
We will use special programs to relieve periodic market congestion of perishable farm products.
We will continue expanding the new Rural Development Program, bringing a real and long-denied opportunity to farm families at the bottom of the economic ladder in agriculture.
We will continue emergency help to farmers and ranchers beset by natural disasters.
We will keep expanding agricultural research to develop new crops, new uses, new markets.
We will continue to strengthen such long-established, indispensable programs as rural electrification and rural telephone service.
And we will keep doing all else that is fair and constructive-all that is not political quackery--to bring our farm people the only kind of prosperity they want--prosperity that can be enjoyed in time of peace.
This final thought I want to leave with you.
Tonight I have talked mainly of farming. But I realize that other things mean at least as much to you and to your family.
I remind you of the contrast between today and the life we knew--and the government we knew--four years ago. In foreign policy and in farm policy--in military affairs and in fiscal affairs--in states' rights and in civil rights--in tax policy and in labor policy.
Where there was confusion then, today there is sense and order.
Where there was laxity, there is integrity.
Where there was doubt, there is confidence.
My friends, I believe that these facts plainly mark the path of our nation's progress.
If you also believe this--if you want to keep on this way, then each of you must do your part to the full in making your decision clear and emphatic.
Whatever you believe, my fellow citizens, you know what your personal role in this coming decision must be: To register--to get all your friends to register--to vote--to get all your friends to vote--so that on November 6th your voices--the voices of all of you--will be heard.
Your decision can then assure and direct our progress in the years ahead--progress in our farm life, and in our whole national life--progress toward our great goal: The prosperity of our people, strong and free, in a world of peace.
Thank you very much, my friends.