Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Ellwood Park, Amarillo, Texas.

July 11, 1938

My friends of the Panhandle and you from neighboring cities who have been good enough to come here today:

If I had asked the newspapermen on the train what the odds were, they would have given me 100 to 1 that it wouldn't be raining in Amarillo. But it is!

Even if Marvin Jones had not kept on telling me about Amarillo once a week for the past five and a half years, I would have known all about it because this is the spot where my wife was presented with the biggest bunch of flowers in all the world.

Before I left home Mrs. Roosevelt asked me especially to convey her greetings to Amarillo and to tell you how much she enjoyed every minute of her visit with you.

The biggest bouquet in the world—and here you are greeting me with the biggest band in the world. Back in the East enterprising communities have thought they were creating world records by assembling bands with five hundred instruments but out here you think nothing of a band with 2,500 instruments.

All this shows what you can do in the Panhandle if you put your minds to it; and that is why I am very happy that you are putting your minds on the subject of land and water use. Everywhere you go in the United States you find the problem of land and water use, and the same thing is true within any given state. For instance, in Texas, here in Marvin Jones' district, most of the time the problem is to get water to the land and to keep the land from blowing away. Down in Austin the problem of my friend, Congressman Lyndon Johnson, is to keep his land from washing away down the rivers and into the sea. And further down at San Antonio, where my friend, Congressman Maury Maverick, represents a great city and its surrounding territory, the problem of land use there is tied up with better housing and the needs of a great municipality.

I wish that more people from the South and the East and the Middle West could visit this Plains country. If they did you would hear less talk about the great American desert, you would hear less ridicule of our efforts to conserve water, to restore grazing lands and to plant trees.

Back in the East, in Washington and on the Hudson River I have seen the top soil of the Panhandle and of Western Kansas and Nebraska borne by the wind high in the air eastward to the Atlantic Ocean itself. I want that sight to come to an end.

It can be ended only by a united national effort, backed up one hundred per cent by you who live in this area. You are giving us that backing.

Money spent for the building of ponds and small lakes, for the damming of rivers, for planting shelterbelts, for other forms of afforestation, for putting plough land back into grass, that is money well spent. It pays to do it, not only for this generation but for the children who will succeed to the land a few years hence.

People who are ignorant and people who think only in terms of the moment scoff at our efforts and say: "Oh, let the next generation take care of itself—if people out in the dry parts of the country cannot live there let them move out and hand the land back to the Indians." That is not your idea nor mine. We seek permanently to establish this part of the Nation as a fine and safe place which a large number of Americans can call home.

Every year that passes, we are learning more and more about the best use of land, about the conserving of our soil and the improvement of it, by getting everything we can out of every drop of water that falls from the heavens. Back in the Allegheny Mountains many of the rivers are called "flash streams"—dry beds or rivulets most of the year, but raging torrents sweeping all before them when a cloudburst or heavy rain occurs. And you have flash streams here.

We are fortunate in Washington in having as Chairman of the Agricultural Committee of the House of Representatives a man who has a well-rounded knowledge of the agricultural programs in every part of the United States. He and I have discussed many times the great objective of putting agriculture and cattle raising on a safe basis—giving assurances to those who engage in those pursuits, that they will not be "broke" one year and "flush" the next. We need a greater permanency, a greater annual security for all who use the soil.

The farming and cattle-raising population of the United States has no desire to be paid a subsidy or to be given a handout from the Federal Treasury. They have come to understand, and the rest of the country is learning, too, that the agricultural program of this Administration is not a subsidy. It is divided into three simple parts.

The first part represents government assistance to help the individual farmer to use his land for those products for which it is best fitted, and to maintain and improve its fertility.

The second objective is, with the approval of those who raise crops, to prevent overproduction and low prices, and at the same time to provide against any shortage—in other words, to apply common sense business principles to the business of farming and cattle raising. As a part of that second objective, we seek to give to the farmers throughout the country as high a purchasing power for their labor as those who work in industry and other occupations.

The third effort of your Government is directed toward a great decrease in farm tenancy and toward the increase in farm ownership by those who till the soil. This includes the encouragement of small farms and of even smaller acreages for those who live near the cities and work in the cities, and who should by all the rules of common sense grow on a few acres around their homes a substantial part of their own family food supply.

You have given me a wonderful reception today in Amarillo, not counting the rain, and I am happy, I am happy indeed, to have been able to see this extraordinarily interesting and progressive part of the United States. I am grateful to you for your cooperation with your National Government, and your understanding of all that we are trying to do in the National Administration to help those who are willing to help themselves.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Ellwood Park, Amarillo, Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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