National Master Newsom, honored guests, and my good friends of the National Grange:
I am pleased and honored to be privileged to take part in your centennial convention.
Your organization has a great leader-my close friend, Herschel Newsom. It does not matter whether the issue is our commitment in Vietnam, or a tax increase to head off the costly tax of inflation, or import quotas that threaten our agricultural exports-Herschel Newsom and the great National Grange organization have always chosen the course of responsibility. And for this, as your President, I am profoundly grateful.
This has been the history of the Grange through all of its hundred years of responsible citizenship of constructive, affirmative leadership. The Grange belongs to the class of people whom I like to call builders in America. It is easy enough always to complain and to be critical of what others do, especially with the benefit of hindsight. It is much more difficult to help find a true course through all the problems that beset us. The Grange has traditionally sought to attain its ends through the vigorous pursuit of affirmative goals. In fact, it has been my observation that you have always been so busy building that you have not had much time to waste on quarreling with those whose stock in trade seems to be hating and tearing down.
I remember a favorite expression of former Speaker Sam Rayburn, who once said: "Any donkey can kick a barn down. It takes a good carpenter to build one."
So yours--as builders--is the blessed way and the world is far better for having people like you among us.
I like to think that you and I have some things in common--a love of the soil and of the open sky, an urge to make things grow, a fascination of the challenge of wind and weather, a spiritual sustenance from the wonders of nature as they are revealed to us upon our farms. I must confess that sometimes I envy you--and at times I would say more than others--because you can spend more time on your farms than I can spend on mine. At least that is the way it is just now.
Another thing that we have in common is a concern about farm income, and my concern about that is perhaps even greater than yours; because as President I cannot help but be deeply concerned about the many millions of people who live on farms who are now not able to earn a decent living. I am glad to be able to say that I believe this situation should be improved and I hope is improving, but I know it is not improving fast enough.
We all know that the pattern of the continuing revolution in America in agriculture is a technological revolution where the ability to produce continues to outrun our ability to consume. It has been this way most of the time for more than 40 years. The result has been all too often depressed prices and financial distress. No way has been found to cope with this problem except through programs of the Federal Government.
Some of you are old enough to remember, as I remember, the long, hard fight it took to gain acceptance of this Federal responsibility. Indeed, there are those in our country today who don't accept this as a Federal responsibility even yet--and there are far too many that wish we had no Federal farm program of any kind.
I wish it to be clear that I, as President, fully accept the Federal responsibility to help maintain farm income at reasonable and stable levels. The Federal Government cannot do the whole job. The farmer must do his part. But the programs required are of such large size that they just cannot be successfully operated unless the strong Federal Government makes available the machinery--the machinery through which the farmers can operate their farm programs.
Having accepted this responsibility, how well have we done in meeting it? Not nearly as well as I would like--because the average farmer still finds himself earning only two-thirds as much as city people earn. And many of you know from your own experience that it is still quite a struggle to make ends meet--to keep expenses from outrunning income. Yet the record does show some progress.
Average net income per farm in 1967 is running 56 percent above 1960. It is somewhat less than 1966 when net income per farm reached an all-time high in our Nation's history, and this setback this year is disappointing to every single one of us. I hope and I believe that this setback is quite temporary. I shall do my best to make it temporary and I hope you will help me in that effort.
The record since 1960 does prove that progress can be made--we made a 56 percent increase. The record since 1960 does show that surpluses can be eliminated--they have been, generally speaking. The record since 1960 does show that farm income can be increased. But this progress can be continued only if our programs are continued. These programs, I warn you, are under constant daily attack in the press and behind the podium.
In the present Congress that we are dealing with here in Washington at this moment, there are no less than 21 bills already introduced that would kill--that would terminate--existing farm programs.
I shall be counting upon your strong support to see that these attacks do not prevail. I want you to keep the farmers in business at least until I can join you full time.
I am proud of what you are doing for your country. I am proud of what you are doing to make America strong and to feed the hungry people of the world. This country owes a lot to the farmer:
--American agriculture, I honestly believe, is the envy of all the nations on earth.
--You have provided food and fiber to this Nation and to its allies through world war and international conflict.
--You--you have saved the lives of millions around the world who would have starved in the absence of American food aid shipped from the United States.
--You have made Americans the healthiest, best fed people in the history of the world, and you have done it at a cost that the average person could easily afford.
--You have provided the largest, single contribution to world trade of any single segment of our economy.
I point these things out so that you know that we do care about you and what happens to you, and what is happening to you. At the same time, I salute you for these accomplishments, and I thank you for all that you have done.
Most of all, I ask your continued help in the tasks that lie ahead in the job that all of us have to do--a job that will give us better prices, that will give us better income, that will try to hold our costs where the people can have an incentive to stay on the farm.
Our biggest problem today is the people who have left the farms to go to the cities, without any skills to use in the cities. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to deal with that problem. How happier we would probably all be if we could have spent that money in preventive medicine before they left the farm.
So I am going to be here trying to correct some of the mistakes that have been made. I am going to be here trying to preserve our farm programs, and to preserve a good, healthy condition for the American farmer. With your help and with your support, I believe we can succeed.
I want to thank you, Herschel Newsom, again. You will always be welcome--you and your organization--in the White House as long as I am here.
Thank you very much.