Mr. Secretary, ladies and gentlemen:
I want to express my appreciation to all of you for participating in this Conference, which I think is most important to our farmers and to our country.
And I want to say a few words this morning about a very important subject to us all, and that is milk. Almost every State produces milk. It provides twice the cash income for our farmers as any other basic crop. It is our most nourishing food, and last year we consumed either in the form of milk or in the form of butter, cheese, or ice cream, 125 billion pounds of dairy products, but in the year before, we consumed between two and three billion pounds more. At the same time our population increased 1.7 percent, and milk production, in an effort to keep pace with population production, increased 11/2 percent. And in that same time milk consumption declined 21/2 percent.
This is a serious matter for us all. It is serious for the dairy industry, for all of our farmers, and for the United States. First, it is a matter of concern because it implies poor nutrition and a less balanced diet. Secondly, it presents problems in the area of the management of our milk production that will require adjustment.
We cannot continue to accumulate dairy products in still larger inventories, nor can we embark upon a policy that will jeopardize the economic interests of so large a segment of our farm population. For there is a close relationship between prosperity on the farm and prosperity in the city--between the economic health of our farm community and the economic health of our Nation.
Third, the drop in milk consumption has serious implications for the best use of those soil, water, and animal resources that are now involved in dairy production.
I doubt that anyone can be sure of the reasons for this sudden drop in consumption. We only know that the slow decline in consumption over a period of time became immediate and precipitous last year.
I have long been convinced that milk is an important aid to good health. This has led me to direct that milk be served at every White House meal from now on--and I expect that all of us will benefit from it.
If we are to be a vigorous and vital nation, as we all desire, then of course we must depend upon the consumption of a balanced diet, and milk must be a part of it.
I am aware that there has been a good deal of public discussion about the effect of radioactive fallout upon Our food supply. Most of the discussion has unfortunately used milk as an example of food products that might be contaminated. This recognizes the importance of milk in our daily diet, but it has the unfortunate effect of causing an identification in the minds of some between fallout and milk.
I should like to correct any misunderstandings that may exist about this. The Public Health Service and other agencies have been instructed to keep the problems of fallout in food under constant surveillance. Detailed guidelines to protect the health of the people against radiation have been developed by the Federal Radiation Council. It is abundantly clear that for the foreseeable future there is no danger from the present amount of exposure. The milk supply offers no hazards. On the contrary, it remains one of the best sources of nutrition for our children and for adults--and I hope that the American people will appreciate this more and more as time goes on.
In addition, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council has concluded, after intensive research, that the association of milk consumption and coronary disease due to an increase in cholesterol level has not been sufficiently established to justify the abandonment of this nutritious element, except where doctors have individually prescribed special diets for those found to be susceptible to special cholesterol or coronary problems.
In the past 50 years our children have grown more vigorous and sturdy because of better diet and better health. Our young adults are now about 2 inches taller than they were half a century ago. I should like--and I am sure all of us would like-to see this trend continue. A large proportion of our people now attain a physical condition once attained by a very few, but nutritionists tell us that 10 percent of our people still have an inadequate diet. The most serious deficiencies, I am told, are in the very minerals and vitamins, such as calcium and Vitamin A, most prevalent in milk. I am sure all of us would like to see this nutritional gap narrowed.
Those who are familiar with the needs and the problems of our older citizens, also tell us that older people need more calcium than they now get. Again, milk offers the best and most economical source of this vital mineral.
There are many children today who do not participate in the school milk and the school lunch programs, because their schools do not and often cannot make them available. Last year we expanded these programs. I hope more and more children will be able to receive school milk and lunches in the days ahead.
These programs find, I think, increasing, support among the people of other nations. We have encouraged this development and will continue to do so.
These are some of the areas which I hope this Conference will cover. I do not say that it is an easy matter that we are now faced with, but we do want to emphasize that this is a great productive resource of our country. We are rich in a very basic food. We are anxious to have the consumption of it increased as our population mounts. and I believe that this Conference will help bring attention of the public to what a valuable asset we have, and to make sure that we develop it more fully.
And therefore I want to express my thanks to all of you for being here today.