THE AMERICAN farmer in the last 30 years has advanced more in agricultural abundance and farm fertility than all the farmers in all the history of recorded time.
One American farmer now feeds and clothes himself and 32 others besides--an achievement unmatched anywhere on earth.
One man on the farm today does all the work that was performed by four in 1939. If this were not so, we would need 23 million farmworkers to feed and clothe ourselves, instead of the 6.5 million we have.
Thirty years ago, the city worker toiled 85 hours each month to feed his wife and children. Today he works less than half as long, and the food his family eats is both more appetizing and more nourishing.
The miracle of American agriculture is thus an example to all the world's billions of the wisdom and the rewards of our democratic system. For more than a century, that system has encouraged development of the family farm and the free and independent farmer.
Government has assisted land distribution. It has provided agricultural research and education. It has extended credit and helped to stabilize prices, but the holding and working of the land has remained with the independent farmer in the basic American tradition.
The preservation of that tradition has been the goal of all our farm policies of the last three decades.
In 1930, rural poverty was widespread; only one farmer in two owned the land he worked upon. And because the farmer was poor, the merchants, tradesmen, bankers, and factory workers, who depended on him for a customer, also suffered.
During the 1930's the Nation faced up to the tragic waste of human and natural resources in our rural areas. Government changed its policies. New laws provided stable prices and technical assistance and credit.
As a result, today, four out of five of our farmers own all or part of the land they till. The value of that land increases year by year. The average American farm today is worth 50 percent more than it was worth only 7 years ago. The net income per farm will be nearly $1,200 higher this year than in 1960.
This progress represents the achievements of a constructive partnership between the farmer and his Government.
The Food and Agriculture Act of 1965, which I sign today, opens a new chapter in the history of that relationship and in the miraculous story of American farming.
With this legislation, we reap the wisdom acquired during more than three decades of trial and effort.
Our objectives remain what they have been for more than 30 years:
--To let the free American farmer use all his skill and initiative to produce agricultural abundance, in return for a fair reward.
--To bring every American a plentiful supply of food, at the lowest possible cost.
--To avoid accumulating costly surpluses of commodities we do not need.
Until now, despite their great achievements, all our programs have not met those goals. Despite years of great abundance, farm incomes have remained far too low, and farm surpluses have remained far too high. In addition, methods used to support farm income have interfered with price competition and a free marketplace.
The Food and Agriculture Act of 1965 is a major step toward correcting those deficiencies. It takes its place proudly with expanded aid to education, immigration reforms, medical care for the aged and other health care legislation, and voting rights for all Americans, as a milestone of the most productive and constructive legislative session in our history.
The Food and Agriculture Act of 1965 sets the course of a farm policy geared to growth.
In combining the principles of competitive pricing for farm products with direct payments to producers, Congress has forged a new link with the future. The new act:
--assures the farmer a fair income.
--assures the American family that expenditures for food will continue to take a smaller and smaller share of family income.
--strengthens the competitive position of U.S. cotton, wheat, and feed grains in world markets and, at the same time, stabilizes those markets.
--assures the reduction and makes more possible the final elimination of surplus stocks of farm products.
By combining individual commodity programs with a long-range cropland adjustment program, the legislation will:
--help reduce the cost to the taxpayers of all our farm programs.
--begin a new era of city-country cooperation as we use surplus cropland to increase outdoor recreation and beautification.
--insure our ability to produce food and fiber in the quantities we need, when we need them.
A wise and continuing partnership between American farmers and their Government, as reflected in this legislation, will produce great benefits for the entire Nation. As a result of the programs now in progress:
--By 1970 our grain surpluses will have disappeared, and our surpluses of cotton and tobacco will be greatly reduced.
--Net farm income will average nearly $2 billion higher per year during the last half of the 1960's than in the last half of the 1950's.
--By 1970, American consumers will have $7 billion a year more to spend for other purposes because of the lower cost of food.
--By 1975, American farm exports will be more than 50 percent greater than today.
Yet, all of this can be--and should be-only a beginning. In a time of technological revolution and rapid change, which is occurring on our farms no less than in our factories and laboratories, we must constantly look to the future. New ways must be explored to keep agriculture and agricultural policy up to date, to get the full benefit of new findings and of new technology, to make sure that our bountiful land is used to the best of our ability to promote the welfare of consumers, farmers, and the entire economy.
I am, therefore, establishing today a Committee on Food and Fiber, to be chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture, and a National Advisory Commission on Food and Fiber, to be chaired by Sherwood Berg, the outstanding dean of the School of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. I am placing on the Commission Americans of broad experience and great talent.
I am asking this Commission to make a penetrating and long-range appraisal of our agricultural and related foreign trade policies. This Commission will undertake this review in terms of the national interest, the welfare of our rural Americans, and the well-being of our farmers, the needs of our workers, and the interests of our consumers.
These men will construct the most thorough study ever conducted of the effects of our agricultural policies on the performance of our economy and on our foreign relations.
This Commission will report to me within 18 months.
But a program which places agriculture on a sound and stable basis is only half of the battle.
The task of achieving a life of quality and dignity in rural America--a life which offers opportunity for rural people equal to that enjoyed by their urban brothers--will engage our minds and hearts and our energies for a lifetime.
If our farmers can succeed in making America a place where abundance flows from one unparalleled harvest to the next, then surely we can also make rural America a place of opportunity for all who dwell there.