Harry S. Truman photo

Address at Dexter, Iowa, on the Occasion of the National Plowing Match

September 18, 1948

Mr. President, and all the good farmers who are responsible for this wonderful demonstration:

It does my heart good to see the grain fields of the Nation again. They are a wonderful sight. The record-breaking harvests you have been getting in recent years have been a blessing. Millions of people have been saved from starvation by the food you have produced. The whole world has reason to be everlastingly grateful to the farmers of the United States.

In a very real sense, the abundant harvests of this country are helping to save the world from communism. Communism thrives on human misery. And the crops you are producing are driving back the tide of misery in many lands. Your farms are a vital element in America's foreign policy. Keep that in mind, that is of vital importance to us and to the world.

And while I am on that subject--I know that the war talk which is so prevalent today is causing all of you deep concern. It is plain enough that we are facing a very disturbing international situation. I should like every American to realize that this country is making every possible effort to preserve the peace.

In this critical situation, my motto has been: "Keep your temper and stand firm." We have kept our tempers. We have stood firm. And we have been reasonable and straightforward at all times.

It is the policy of this Government to continue working for peace with every instrument at our command. At the same time, we have been rapidly building up our strength. The peace of the world and the prestige of the United States require that the Nation be strong and vigilant.

But that is not the main point I wish to cover today. In addition to the issue of peace, there is another important reason why this is a critical period for America. I am talking about our economic future--your economic future.

Will this Nation succeed in keeping its prosperity ? Will it preserve its high standards of living next year, and the year after, and the year after that ?

I know of only one way to get assured prosperity. That is by cooperation of agriculture with labor, cooperation of agriculture and labor with business, large and small.

When these groups work together in a common cause, this country can achieve miracles. We saw that during the war. We saw it before the war. By common effort, in the last 15 years, every group in the Nation steadily increased its income. Our people rose from despair to the highest living standards in the history of the world.

So long as the farmer, the worker, and the businessman pull together in the national interest, this country has everything to hope for.

But it is terribly dangerous to let any one group get too much power in the Government. We cannot afford to let one group share the Nation's policies in its own interest, at the expense of the others.

That is what happened in the 1920's, under the big business rule of the Republicans. Those were the days when big corporations had things their own way. The policies that Wall Street big business wanted were the policies that the Republicans adopted. Agriculture, labor, and small business played second fiddle, while big business called the tune.

Those were the days of Republican high tariffs--tariffs which penalized the American farmer by making him pay high prices for manufactured goods, while he was receiving low prices for his crops.

You remember the results of that Wall Street Republican policy. You remember the big boom and the great crash of 1929. You remember that in 1932 the position of the farmer had become so desperate that there was actual violence in many farming communities. You remember that insurance companies and banks took over much of the land of small independent farmers--223,000 farmers lost their farms.

That was a painful lesson. It should not be forgotten for a moment.

Since then the farmer has come a long way. The agricultural program of the Democratic administration in 16 years has enabled farmers to attain decent standards of living. Interest rates on farm credit have been sharply brought down. Farm mortgage indebtedness has been reduced by more than 50 percent. Farm mortgage foreclosures have almost disappeared. In 1947 the smallest number of farm foreclosures in the history of the country took place.

All this was done under a Democratic administration.

Today the world needs more food than ever before. There is every reason for the American farmer to expect a long period of good prices--if he continues to get a fair deal. His great danger is that he may be voted out of a fair deal, and into a Republican deal.

The Wall Street reactionaries are not satisfied with being rich. They want to increase their power and their privileges, regardless of what happens to the other fellow. They are gluttons of privilege.

These gluttons of privilege are now putting up fabulous sums of money to elect a Republican administration.

Why do you think they are doing that? For the love of the Republican candidate? Or do you think it is because they expect a Republican administration to carry out their will, as it did in the days of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover?

I think we know the answer. I think we know that Wall Street expects its money this year to elect a Republican administration that will listen to the gluttons of privilege first, and to the people not at all.

Republican reactionaries want an administration that will assure privilege for big business, regardless of what may happen to the rest of the Nation.

The Republican strategy is to divide the farmer and the industrial worker--to get them to squabbling with each other--so that big business can grasp the balance of power and take the country over, lock, stock, and barrel.

To gain this end, they will stop at nothing. On the one hand, the Republicans are telling industrial workers that the high cost of food in the cities is due to this Government's farm policy. On the other hand, the Republicans are telling the farmers that the high cost of manufactured goods on the farm is due to this Government's labor policy.

That's plain hokum. It's an old political trick. "If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'era." But this time it won't work.

The farmer and the worker know that their troubles have been coming from another source. Right here I would like to cite you an example of the situation that they were faced with not so long ago. In 1932, under the Republicans, we had 12,500,000 unemployed, with average hourly wages at 45 cents, and we had 15 cent corn and 3 cent hogs. In fact, you burnt up some of your corn, because you couldn't market it, it was too cheap.

Those gluttons of privilege remember one plain fact. Never once during the great crises of the past 50 years have the Wall Street Republican administrations lifted a finger to help the farmer. Wait a minute-wait a minute!--they did once. They gave you a Farm Board. That was their great contribution.

How well you must remember the depression of the 1930's! The Republicans gave you that greatest of all depressions, as I said before, when hogs went down to 3 cents, and corn was so cheap you were burning it up.

All through this country, the American farmer and worker have been the victims of boom and bust cycles--with accent on the bust, especially for the farmers and the workers. And they have suffered alike in these misfortunes.

I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you? It's about time that the people of America realized what the Republicans have been doing to them.

Why is it that the farmer and the worker and the small businessman suffer under Republican administrations and gain under Democratic administrations?

I'll tell you why. It is the result of a basic difference in the attitude between the Democratic and the Republican parties.

The Democratic Party represents the people. It is pledged to work for agriculture. It is pledged to work for labor. It is pledged to work for the small businessman and the white-collar worker.

The Democratic Party puts human rights and human welfare first.

But the attitude of the Republican gluttons of privilege is very different. The bigmoney Republican looks on agriculture and labor merely as expense items in a business venture. He tries to push their share of the national income down as low as possible and increase his own profits. And he looks upon the Government as a tool to accomplish this purpose.

These Republican gluttons of privilege are cold men. They are cunning men. And it is their constant aim to put the Government of the United States under the control of men like themselves. They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship.

You have had a sample of what the Republican administration would mean to you. Two years ago, in the congressional elections, many Americans decided that they would not bother to vote. Well, others thought they would like to have a change. And they brought into power a Republican Congress-that notorious "do-nothing" 80th Republican Congress.

Let us look at the results of that change. This Republican Congress has already stuck a pitchfork in the farmer's back.

They have already done their best to keep the price supports from working. Many growers have sold wheat this summer at less than the support .price, because they could not find proper storage.

When the Democratic administration had to face this problem in the past, the Government set up grain bins all over the wheat and corn belts to provide storage.

Now the farmers need such bins again. But when the Republican Congress rewrote the charter of the Commodity Credit Corporation this year, there were certain lobbyists in Washington representing the speculative grain trade--your old friend.

These big-business lobbyists and speculators persuaded the Congress not to provide the storage bins for the farmers. They tied the hands of the administration. They are preventing us from setting up storage bins that you will need in order to get the support price for your grain.

When the farmers have to sell their wheat below the support price, because they have no place to store it, they can thank this same Republican 80th Congress that gave the speculative grain trade a rake-off at your expense.

The Republican reactionaries are not satisfied with that. Now they are attacking the whole structure of price supports for farm products.

This attack comes at a time when many farm prices are dropping and the price support program is of the greatest importance to the farmer.

The Democratic Party originated the farm support program. We built the price support plan out of hard experience. We built it for the benefit of the entire Nation--not only for the farmer, but for the consumer as well.

Republican spokesmen are now complaining that my administration is trying to keep farm prices up. They have given themselves away. They have given you a plain hint of what they have in store for you if they come into power. They are obviously ready to let the bottom drop out of farm prices.

The purpose of price support is to prevent farm prices from failing to ruinously low levels. Every consumer should realize that these supports apply only when farm prices have dropped below parity.

The Government is not now supporting the price on major food items such as meats, dairy products, and poultry.

The Government has just begun to support the price of wheat, which has dropped from around $3 a bushel to about $2 a bushel.

This support price has nothing to do with the price the consumer is paying for bread.

Now, listen to this! When wheat prices were going up, the price of bread rose steadily. It went up from 10 cents a loaf to 11 cents--to 12 cents a loaf--to 13 cents--to 14 cents.

Now, wheat prices have fallen a dollar a bushel. But the price of bread has come down not one cent!

There you have the policy of the reactionary big business. Pay as little as you can to the farmer, and charge the consumer all he can bear. That is a fair sample of what the Republican reaction has meant to you in the past 2 years--to you, and to every consumer, in the cities and on the farms.

When the Republicans claim that the wheat price supports are to blame for the high price of bread, they are trying to stir up the city consumer against the farmer by downright dishonesty.

The truth of the matter is that by encouraging the record production of the last few years, the support program has actually kept the consumer prices down.

Those who are willfully trying to discredit the price support system don't want the farmers to be prosperous. They believe in low prices for farmers, cheap wages for labor, and high profits for big corporations.

These are the facts the people need to know. I am going to keep hammering away at the facts until the whole country rings with the truth about these gluttons of privilege.

The record of the Republican 80th Congress is one long attack on the welfare of the farmer.

Under the Democratic administrations since 1933, the Government sponsored the great soil conservation program which helped to lay the foundations for the present prosperity of the American farmer. But that "do-nothing" Republican 80th Congress, under the false mask of economy, cut and threatened to kill the soil conservation program. You people here know best the importance of soil conservation to American agriculture. You bet you do! You know what the reactionary attack on soil conservation will cost the farmer if we let the Republicans have their own way.

At every point the Republican 80th Congress did what the speculative grain lobby wanted it to do.

They have killed the International Wheat Agreement, which would have assured the American wheat growers a large export market for 5 years at fair prices.

They started a move to put a death-tax on farm cooperatives.

They ruled out the grain bins that help make the ever-normal granary effective.

They have invited a depression by refusing to curb inflation.

And now they are attacking the farm support program.

The Wall Street Republicans are not worrying about whether you like it or not. Their political wiseacres have assured them that the farmer has fallen back into his old habit of voting Republican, whatever happens. The Republicans are saying, "Don't worry about the farm vote. It's in the bag."

So long as you had a good year once in a while, you would be satisfied. So they thought. And so they think today.

You and I know they're making a big mistake. From what I have seen, the farmers of this country have their eyes open. You're not going to be fooled again by the slick propaganda of Wall Street.

In only 2 years, with only the Congress under their control, the Republicans were able to weaken your position gravely.

Well, imagine what would happen if they were to get both the Congress and the Presidency for 4 years. What they have taken away from you thus far would be only an appetizer for the economic tapeworm of big business.

Your best protection is to elect a Democratic Congress and a President that will play fair with the farmer--an administration that will reinforce soil conservation, provide adequate storage facilities for grain, encourage production, and help the farmer make enough on his crop to meet the cost of living, and have something left over.

I don't need to tell you how long it takes to get a good crop, and how big the dangers are. You can work a year, plowing and cultivating, and then at the last minute, a sudden drought or flood can wipe you out. You all know how terrible these disasters of nature can be.

Now you are faced with the danger of another kind of disaster--a man-made disaster bearing the Republican trademark. For 16 years the Democrats have been working on a crop of prosperity for the farmer. We have been plowing, and seeding, and cultivating the soil of the American economy in order to get a crop of prosperity that you have been enjoying for the past several years.

The question is: Are you going to let another Republican blight wipe out that prosperity?

I have reminded you of the evils wrought by the Republican administrations in recent times. But my purpose has not been merely to bring up the past. I am trying to point the way to a healthy future. The Democratic Party is looking forward, not back. We are planning to aid the farmers of America meet their pressing problems and avoid catastrophe.

Today farmers are faced with the threat that markets will fail to keep up with their production. The reactionary Republican answer is to let prices crash to the bottom. But the Democratic Party has a constructive way of preventing such a collapse.

We are reaching out to develop world markets that will absorb production above America's own needs. Scientific research is discovering more and newer uses for farm products. We know that the world can absorb the farmers' output, if the right conditions are created, and we are working to insure continued prosperity for American agriculture.

The Democratic Party is fighting the farmer's battle. We believe that farmers are entitled to share equally with other people in our national income. We believe that a prosperous and productive agriculture is essential to our national welfare.

But the Democratic Party does not stand in defense of he farmer alone. It stands for the people of the United States--the farmer, the industrial worker, and the white-collar worker.

Our intentions are made clear by our deeds. In this 20th century, every great step forward has come during Democratic administrations of the National Government. Every movement backward has come under Republican auspices, and it is the people who have paid dearly for these reactionary moves.

Too much is now at stake--here and throughout the world--to take the wrong path now.

There is one way to stop the forces of reaction.

Get every vote out on election day, and make it count. You can't afford to waste your votes this year.

I'm not asking you just to vote for me. Vote for yourselves! Vote for your farms! Vote for the standard of living that you have won under a Democratic administration!

Get out there on election day, and vote for your future!

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. before an audience of over 80,000 persons. His opening words "Mr. President" referred to Herb Plambeck, Director of the National Plowing Contest. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

For the President's later informal remarks at the scene of the plowing match, see Item 194 [8].

Harry S Truman, Address at Dexter, Iowa, on the Occasion of the National Plowing Match Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232829

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