Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address at the Annual Convention of the Future Farmers of America, Kansas City, Missouri

October 15, 1953

Mr. President, Governor Donnelly, other distinguished guests, my young friends:

There has just been conferred upon me, as I came up here, an honorary degree of Farmer of America. I hope you will allow me to say that not only am I very proud of this distinction, but I shall expect to profit from it. Now I believe it is my privilege to call upon the county agent, and even for some Department of Agriculture pamphlets. And with my farm in Pennsylvania, I need them.

Now, my young friends, I want to visit with you tonight about our country, and also about an important part of it--agriculture--to which you are devoting your lives.

But first, I want to extend my warm congratulations on the Silver Anniversary of your organization.

I wish we could have had similar organizations when I worked on the farm during my boyhood in Abilene, some 160 miles west of here.

Mastery of good farming is, of course, your immediate concern as Future Farmers of America. But for his well-being today, the farmer must look not merely to his own skills and his own fertile acres; he must look to the far corners of this broad land and on beyond to such far-off regions as Malaya and the Belgian Congo.

The interests of you young men and women cannot be limited, isolated, or described by any single term such as "agriculture." Your study in the coming years must range beyond your immediate problems and your home communities. Your vision must encompass the entire globe. Certainly, for you and your parents, the activities of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense are as important as those of the Secretary of Agriculture. Your fortunes are and will be as directly and intimately affected by the foreign policies of the United States as they will be by any farm policy of the government.

By the same token, our agriculture has a far deeper meaning for the entire American people than is represented only in the abundant products of the soil. Our great cities, our mighty industries, our business and professional accomplishments, our educational institutions, our high living standards--are possible because of the efficiency and productivity of the American farm.

In some countries, roughly nine-tenths of the population must work on the land, in order to provide a living for themselves and to release one man for other types of duty. In our country that ratio is more than reversed. So that we have a great preponderant portion of our population free to go into other forms of activity that redound to the comfort and improved standards of living of all of us. In the same fashion your own agricultural interests and income are inseparably tied up with the health and prosperity of working men and women and the industries in our towns and cities. One element of our Nation can scarcely exist-and certainly cannot prosper--independently of the others.

This truth is applicable within agriculture itself. There is, for instance, the problem created by the desire of the cattle raiser for cheap feed, while the producer of that feed seeks a good market and high prices. The simple fact is that we must seek methods of increasing stability and prosperity in all elements of agriculture. Such an agriculture is imperative to the well-being of all Americans.

Because our national interest is so deeply involved, I think it will be well for us to take stock of where we are today and where we are headed for in agriculture. I am going to talk about this, my young friends, without apology, because I think you have as much interest in the matter as do your parents. I know you have a far greater understanding of the factors at work than did young people during my own youth.

Let us talk first about some disagreeable facts. There are difficult problems today in our agriculture--problems deeply rooted in our recent past. By last January, farm prices, farm income, and our agricultural exports had all gone into full retreat, while the cost of the things farmers bought were on the increase.

This economic grinding machine hurt many of our farm people, but especially young farmers just starting out--including many thousands of GI's who had turned to farming or returned to their farms, after the war. I understand and am deeply concerned with their problems.

Now, this developing cost-price squeeze found the Nation's cattlemen in especial difficulty early this year. It even forced many of them to liquidate all or part of their herds.

One of the first official acts of this Administration dealt with this problem. Price controls were promptly removed, as was the compulsory grading that had been obstructing the market. Secretary of Agriculture Benson then vigorously attacked the problem from the merchandising standpoint. He obtained the wholehearted cooperation of cattlemen's associations--meat packers-wholesale and retail outlets. These efforts helped increase beef sales by 26 percent during the first 8 months of 1953 as compared to one year before.

Trying and difficult as was this situation, a disaster of nature's making came to aggravate the trouble. A drought of devastating intensity blistered the great Southwest. Economic misfortune confronted hundreds of thousands of Americans on ranches and farms. The cattle forced upon the market from the stricken areas further depressed prices.

Clearly, here was a case for action by a government that was concerned with the welfare of all our people.

Emergency government programs were quickly set up to provide low cost feed in the disaster areas. Emergency credit, reduced freight rates, increased government purchases of beef were swiftly arranged. Incidentally, I was just informed today by the Secretary that the reduced freight rates are to be continued by the railways. In this crisis, the Congress, responding to the national interest, provided 150 million dollars for emergency loans and low-cost feed and seed.

Now, that was during June and July. Since then the drought has grown more serious, especially here in Missouri. I assure you young people, your families, and Americans generally, that the Federal government is continuing, and will continue as long as necessary, to assist in meeting the misfortunes of our people in the drought areas. Only a few days ago, an additional ten million dollars were allocated from emergency funds to help pay the cost of transporting midwestern hay to drought-stricken livestock farmers.

Today, to develop additional plans to meet this situation, Secretary Benson and Director Peterson of the Federal Civil Defense Administration met here in Kansas City with the Governors of the States most seriously affected by the widening drought. Tomorrow morning, I shall meet with the Governors to receive their suggestions on the cooperation of their States with the Federal government in this important effort.

My own conviction is that the principle of partnership between the Federal government and the State governments should govern our approach to such emergency problems. Only in this way can we gain the dual advantages of local knowledge, efficiency and incentive on the one hand, and of the wider Federal resources on the other.

And yet there are many problems relating to agriculture that are predominantly Federal in character. There is evidence of this fact in the many constructive legislative steps taken thus far by the 83rd Congress--such legislation as raising the minimum quota limitations on the 1954 wheat crop--authorizing wheat for Pakistan--providing one hundred million dollars of farm commodities for relief to friendly nations--authorizing two hundred and fifty million dollars for foreign currencies to expend for farm commodities--inaugurating a new upstream conservation-type flood control program--authorizing reorganization of the Department of Agriculture--extending the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act and creating a commission to study foreign economic policy. These and other actions by the Congress have been a significant contribution both to the present and to the future welfare of American farmers.

Now, before plans can be laid for the future of American agriculture, it is important for us to understand the major problem today.

This trouble, aside from the drought, is simply stated: our war-expanded agriculture produces more than enough, in some lines to meet market demands and reserve requirements at present prices.

Why, then, you may ask, hasn't this problem become more insistently troublesome before now?

I think, again, the reason is plain.

It was World War II inflation; then huge American agricultural exports, financed by American billions; then still another burst of inflation caused by the Korean War: it was these emergencies, these calamities, this rampant inflation, that provided the critical margin for high agricultural prices during the past decade. It was this series of events that blurred the basic problem and deferred its solution to later years.

I grew up among farmers. I know they do not want their future prosperity contingent upon crises of one sort or another. No one can hate war, inflation and crisis more than does the farmer. Instead the farmer wants farm programs that affect him to be orderly, long-lived, soundly-based and carefully devised by the best brains and experience in agriculture. This, I am sure, is especially the conviction of you young people. You have long lives still before you, and must think in terms of sound and lasting farm programs fitted to your future.

It is for such reasons as these that we have established an 18 member commission to help devise programs for the farmers' future--a commission--and please note this well--a commission with 12 active, practical farmers as members, to insure that practical men help form a sound national agricultural policy.

To secure this kind of practical help is why the Department of Agriculture has been working closely with the national farm organizations and through them, directly with active farmers to develop its own recommendations for a farm program that will solidly advance the whole Nation's interest.

That is why special commodity committees and the agricultural colleges are hard at work with the Department of Agriculture on the more technical problems.

It is why the Senate Committee on Agriculture has commenced studies of conservation and development of our land and water resources.

This is also why the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture is now holding hearings right at the grass roots, taking testimony directly from active farmers and their leaders, to find out what the experienced farmer believes is necessary for a sound farm program.

Now, these are the most thorough probings into the fundamentals of American agriculture in many years. They have been actively under way for some time. While they have not yet been completed, I want to say now these three things about these broad efforts:

First, I intend to weigh carefully the many recommendations developed by these groups of men experienced in all these phases of agriculture. Based on those views, I will submit my recommendations to the Congress early next year on the kind of program I believe to be in the Nation's best interest.

And may I say, in connection with that, I look upon the formulation of a sound farm policy as a bi-partisan undertaking. The welfare of our farm families knows no politics and I assure you there shall be none in the approach to that problem by this Administration.

Second, just a word about price supports.

Now, these price support laws expire in December 1954. This means that in the next session of Congress, the one meeting this coming January, various plans will necessarily be considered and weighed and resolved. These alternatives are: first to extend present laws exactly as now written; second, to extend them with certain improvements; and third, to revise them radically in favor of an entirely new program. As all people in agriculture know, there is great diversity of opinion as to what should be done about these expiring laws.

We must--and we will--continue faithfully to administer present price support laws now on the statute books. Further, all of us know that the price support principle must be a part of any future farm program.

All of us likewise know that these are extremely complex issues. They are now being analyzed and worked at as hard as thoughtful people can do, with expert judgment being brought to bear from practical farmers themselves. I have kept in close personal touch with the progress of these studies. The goal is a solidly-based, comprehensive farm program that will remedy present difficulties in existing laws--a program that will build markets, safeguard farm income, and protect consumers.

The farmers need such a program in their own interest. Consumers need one in their own interest. But keep this clearly in mind: no program is going to be proposed by this Administration, nor, I am sure, would a program be passed by the Congress, that fails to provide solidly for the national interest by continuing prosperity in American agriculture.

Third, I think we are now ready to start hammering out this solidly-based program for the future.

Within ten days, on October 24th to be exact, I am calling together, to meet with me in the Cabinet Room at the White House, the National Agricultural Advisory Commission. That commission will give to us the conclusions it has arrived at in its months of study.

Later, as your farm organizations and the Committees of Congress complete their essential studies, the Secretary and I will confer with the ranking members of these Committees and with your farm leaders to obtain the results of their grassroots studies now nearing completion.

Thus, in this fashion, we will firm up the needed program and we will have that program ready for the consideration of the Congress early next year. After that, of course, begin the exhaustive Committee hearings and debate in the Congress. The end result will be as sound and as carefully thought out a farm program as practical experience, expert knowledge, and good judgment can devise.

Now, my friends, I trust that this sketchy outline of the developing farm program has some interest for you because of your immediate economic and professional concerns. But, for just a moment, let us look at your wider interests as Americans and as citizens of the world--and at the kind of world in which you may spend your years. And let us not forget that the demands of those wider interests must always be met satisfactorily before specific programs affecting any profession or calling can have validity.

In the past half century our Nation's population has almost doubled. In the next six years our population will grow by the equivalent of the total present population of our great neighbor Canada. The promise that this rapid growth of our country holds out to all our people, and especially our farmers, is tremendous. It represents 7,000 more breakfasts, 7,000 more dinners, 7,000 more suppers each day than on the day before.

Combined with this rapidly growing market is the amazing progress in science and invention which daily opens startling new vistas for all of our people.

There is no foretelling what American ingenuity will offer the Nation in the next few decades. In my lifetime have come the automobile, television, electronics, home freezers, widespread use of the telephone and electricity on our farms, good roads, power machinery, vastly improved fertilizer and insecticides--and not the least, civilian and military aircraft some flying beyond the speed of sound, some with a range of 10,000 miles.

With such startling developments in our recent past, who can foretell the promise of the future ahead of you young people?

In this developing society in which you are speedily to take a leading part, you must never permit your government to indulge in the fanciful notion that work for the individual is a thing of the past. My friends, this is true because if ever this should become a fact, if work were a thing of the past, all fun and joy in living would be gone. Your own property, your own security, your own opportunity, your own liberties, they must be earned-they cannot be bestowed upon you. It is government's function to preserve your possession of these rights and opportunities and privileges, and to protect you against every disaster which is of such a kind that the individual alone cannot conquer it. But in the necessity of constantly adjusting the processes of government so as always to provide for needed protection to its citizens, while at the same time insuring perpetuation of their economic, political and intellectual freedoms, here is where we find the great challenge of America.

So, what is promised you is opportunity to get ahead, to make of yourselves what you can. What is promised you, too, is a chance to keep a free government free--a government carrying forward in keeping with the Nation's ideals--a government of limited powers, preserving your freedom, responding to your will, and insuring that the Nation is secure.

I foresee no limits to your future. It is truly boundless. Anyone my age who truly believes in America sincerely congratulates you as you start the exciting and challenging journey through life, even though he cannot see and experience what you are going to see and experience. But he does know that the whole adventure will be more fascinating, more spectacular, more stimulating and more rewarding than were the events my generation has witnessed.

As I say good night to you, I deeply wish that I could be given the words to express the boundless confidence I have in the ability and character and the stamina of America's young people. I have lived with them and gained inspiration from them in peace and in war in many corners of the earth. To them, America is indebted for every military victory she has won, for wars are always fought and won by the young people.

Now, we know as you know, that keeping our Nation secure and the world at peace will remain the predominant, overshadowing problem until an equitable method of easing the world's tensions has been found, until we have devised a way to turn man's major effort from his own destruction to his own betterment and salvation. Beyond all doubt the aspiration of America is peace; to achieve it your government in all its branches is laboring earnestly and persistently, and in doing so seeks the understanding support of every single one of our citizens in this quest for peace.

In this question, as in all others of major import, the fortunes of you young people are more definitely at stake than are those of older groups. This world is yours to live in; you must help shape it to your desires and aspirations. I believe--and I deeply believe-that the energy, the courage, the imagination, the readiness to sacrifice, of American youth when united behind this purpose, will constitute such a force that obstacles will fall and victory finally emerge.

As you till your farms, go to school, plan your futures, raise your families, remember that only he can deserve America who stands forever ready to give America all he has.

To live for America as devotedly, as nobly as so many thousands have died for her is the greatest ambition any of her children can have. Fortified and strengthened by this one truth,

there is no problem you will not solve. May God truly bless you all.

Good night.

Note: The President spoke at 8 p.m. in the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. In his opening words he referred to James Dillon, National President of the Future Farmers of America.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address at the Annual Convention of the Future Farmers of America, Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232185

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