Governor Tootell, Congressman Mahon, Mr. Knutsen, my old friend Charlie Thompson, ladies and gentlemen:
Two weeks ago I sent a message to Congress on poverty in America. At the end of the message, I remarked that the poverty of the thirties--the poverty of the Dust Bowl and the breadlines--was now ancient history to most Americans.
More than half our population has been born since 1940. The New Deal's great struggle to provide job opportunities, subsistence for the aged, and the simple necessities of life for millions of American men and women is something that most of our population now knows only from hearsay and only second hand.
I think still fewer of our people remember the farm depression that undermined the boom of the twenties. That is so not only because of their age, but because of the very rapid and steady decline in our farm population over the past 40 years. A phrase like "farm credit system" does not strike a chord of recognition in most of our people today-particularly these young ones who were not here when it was being formed.
I am old enough to remember when Bill Myers came down here from Cornell and we had to work through the nights to get extra appraisers on the job down in some of the areas of our country, before they threw the Secretary of the Farm Association out of the window, when those insurance companies were foreclosing.
Nevertheless, the prosperity that most Americans have known in recent years is built in great part on our incredibly productive agriculture. And that, in turn, has been made possible by technology, hard work, and plentiful farm credit.
The majority of Americans may not be consciously celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Federal Land Bank this year, but they are benefiting every single day from what you have helped to make possible.
Twenty years ago the average family in America spent 26 percent of its after-tax income on food. Today the average family doesn't spend 26 percent of its after-tax income on food--it spends 18 percent. The difference between those figures represents a tremendous advance in prosperity. It has come about because today's farmers can produce about as much before breakfast as their fathers did working all day, with the handicaps that they had.
Now the benefits of this revolution in farm production are not limited to the grocery store or the family kitchen. Our foreign trade balance has been strengthened every year by our agricultural exports. The American farmer has helped meet his Nation's moral obligation to the world's poor. Since 1954, 145 million tons of American food has gone to feed millions of hungry people throughout the world.
Only last Saturday I signed a resolution that the Congress had passed on food for India. That resolution represents hundreds of millions of dollars of food that we will send to the starving people of that nation.
Obviously we must do more than preserve this asset. We must strengthen it. We must help it grow. The Food and Agriculture Act of 1965--one of the most reasonable, and at the same time one of the most imaginative farm bills that the Congress ever passed--is the main tool that we are using in America to do that.
Under it, net income per farm set a new record last year. The surpluses that depressed farm prices during the fifties--most of them--have already been eliminated and they no longer cast a shadow hovering over that price to depress it.
Yet despite the advances we are making in improving farm income, farmers still lag a third behind the income of city people. They are caught in a vise between stable prices and rising costs.
I have heard some voices--completely nonpolitical, of course--say that the administration views this situation with complacency or satisfaction. Well, anything that will depress farm prices is said to be all right with us by some of our critics.
I guess you have to consider the source when you hear that statement. Farmers usually do. I used to hear Mr. Rayburn say that he would rather trust a farmer's judgment than nearly anyone else, because the farmer sat there all day on that tractor and he had a lot more time to evaluate, judge, and think than the man who got in his Cadillac and looked at his Wall Street Journal on his way to work for 30 minutes that morning.
Now anyone who believes that a Democratic President, who was born and raised in a democratic country, in a farm area, who grew up on a farm, walked 4 miles to school, and who spent 35 years among Congressmen and Senators from farm States, can look with any pleasure at all on declining farm incomes, is either pretty naive, or pretty misinformed, or he is looking for a political issue that doesn't exist.
We are trying to use the act of 1965--and the 4 years of stability it gives us--to increase farm income substantially. There will be price fluctuations. There will be price frustrations. A lot of things contribute to it--one of which may have something to do with it now is the weather, the insects, and a few other things. But these--we believe, during this 4-year period--will straighten out.
We are on a long uphill climb, and we are going to make it. The stakes are high. Years of continued prosperity for all of our people must be built on a healthy agriculture. With reason, with determination, with mutual understanding between producers and consumers, we cannot fail.
The credit problem has always been a farmer's number one problem--along with his prices. I think that we have been able to develop an efficient and effective credit situation. I am hopeful--during the period of this 4-year program--that we can have a stable and improved price situation.
I think the American people--as well as all the eaters of the world, wherever they live-owe a deep debt of gratitude to the American farmer and to the credit system that has financed him.
Thank you very much.