* * * Most people thought it was duly a slip of the tongue when, in the first television debate, Mr. Nixon said that we should get rid of the farmer. But there is room for doubt whether it was a slip in view of his distorted charge that the Democratic farm program would raise food prices to the consumer. Not only is that charge wholly wrong but like everything else about the Republican program in agriculture, it works toward the extinction of the family farmer. For it stirs up an artificial war between farmers and consumers. And it prevents a solution of the farm problem by misrepresenting the problem completely.
The core of the farm problem is the steady decline in the income of efficient family farmers. During the last 8 years, under the Nixon-Benson program, farm income has dropped by $24 billion, a shrinkage of 26 percent. The farm economy is now badly depressed. It will be depressed when the next administration takes office in January.
The farm depression hurts every industry which sells to the farmer: steel, machinery, autos, chemicals, clothing, appliances, building materials, and so forth. The decline in farm income, in other words, is a central component of our current economic distress. It is of the first importance, for the Nation as well as the farmer, that we raise farm income immediately.
The Democratic farm program does just that. It offers to the farmer parity of income. It will increase farm income in the 1961-62 marketing year - and no one denies that. At the same time, by balancing supply and demand, the Democratic farm program can, I believe, reduce costs to the Treasury by about $1 billion annually.
With respect to wheat, for example, the Democratic program would increase the farmers income to parity income levels; surpluses would be gradually reduced; and the retirement of wheat crop acreage would protect feed producers from additional feed production.
The Republican farm program does nothing to raise farm income. It does nothing to achieve parity of farm income. It does nothing to raise support prices. It is a continuation of Bensonism, tricked out with two new public relations stunts.
One is Operation Consume, a boondoggle, plainly manufactured on Madison Avenue. The other is the massive land retirement program. Far from helping the farmer, that program would extend and continue the extinction of the family farmer set in motion 8 years ago by Ezra Taft Benson. For that Mr. Benson sired the program is abundantly clear. In describing the program this year Mr. Nixon said: "We will use the surplus to use up the surplus." Do you know who said that first? Ezra Taft Benson. Four years ago he said: "We will use the surplus to use up the surplus."
It is precisely because his own program does not meet the farmers' needs that Mr. Nixon has fallen back on the blackmailer's tactic of distorted threats of threats to the consumer and threats to the farmer. But the only possible consequences of such tactics is to foment bitterness and distrust between city and farm, and thus to add new burdens to the staggering load already borne by the farm community. For in effect Mr. Nixon, not satisfied with having used the full powers of the Federal Government to get rid of the farmer, is now trying to enlist all consumers in a new campaign against the farm community.
I am confident that the American people will block this Nixon campaign against the farmer. For there is available a solution to the farm problem, and it lies with the Democratic Party for only the Democratic Party has ever had the courage to deal with farm matters on a sensible and mature basis.