Jimmy Carter photo

Address at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines

August 25, 1976

I'm glad to be here today, especially to be with you at your Iowa State Fair—in a state which is number one in com, number one in hogs, and which produces one-sixth of the nation's soybeans and about 10 percent of all U.S. food.

I understand the Republicans have just decided they don't like the idea of peanut farmers leaving their crops to look for new jobs in Washington. They've even agreed to stop the embargoes for a while to make farming more attractive so I'll stay in Plains. But I prefer to go on from my farm to the White House and stop embargoes once and for all!

I come here as one who has spent the last 20 months traveling throughout our nation. I think I have seen more of our country, and more people, than anyone else in the United States. I've been raising votes, and I've been successful in that. I planted my first crop in Iowa last winter, and have already gathered the first harvest in Madison Square Garden. Now I'm looking forward to the next harvest on November 2.

When I began my campaign, as you perhaps know, I didn't have a built-in organization. I didn't hold public office. I was not well known. But my wife and I, and many others, went from one living room to another, one union hail to another, one farmers' market and livestock sale bam to another. Sometimes only three or four people would come to a meeting. But I would make a 10 minute speech and answer questions for 45 minutes or so. And I began to form a personal relationship with individual voters that paid rich dividends as the campaign progressed.

And I've learned in the process. I've learned many things that have reinforced my faith in the basic character and strength of our nation and of the American people. I'm sure now that, if we can bring our political institutions up to the level of our people, we will have a government we can be proud of once again.

But I've also learned about the way we've been wounded, as a people and a nation.

I've seen the walls that have gone up in this country over the last eight years. There's a wall that's gone up around Washington between our people and our government. There's a wall that's gone up between the White House and the Congress. There's a wall that's gone up between the regions of this country. There's a wall that's gone up between us and the standards that made us a great nation.

I want to tear those walls down. And one I want to talk about today is the wall that separates the producers of foods and fiber from the other consumers in this country—a wall that has been built by Earl Butz and his Department of Agriculture.

Our people are proud of the American farmers and ranchers. In all the history of our nation, there has been no more dramatic success story than the story of the American farm family. Every person working full-time on a farm now provides the food for about 100 other people, both in this country and abroad.

Our people respect the American farmer. The family farm has preserved the values—honesty, dependability, hard work and faith—which we need to rediscover as a nation.

Our city people are natural partners with those of us in rural America. What is best for the family farmer in the long run is exactly what is best for the consumer.

But in the last eight years, this partnership has been almost destroyed. We have seen conflict where there should be cooperation. The independent producers of America do not want that. The people of America do not want it Our customers overseas do not want it

I say it's time to take down the wall. It's time to put our partnership back together—one that will enable the farmer and the rancher to make a decent living—especially the family farmer who is the most efficient producer—and ensure the consumer an adequate supply of food and fiber at a reasonable price. We can do both if we have national leadership dedicated to the best interests of all the people.

Nobody who's spent as much time on a farm as I have wants the government to manage our farms.

Rural families are just looking for an even break.

That's not much to ask. But it is a lot more than we have been getting these last eight years.

It's not my idea of a fair shake when the government encourages all-out production, and then offers the farmer no protection at all against the surpluses his efficiency creates.

It's not my idea of a fair shake when the government promotes foreign sales, and then cuts them off for political convenience. Four major embargoes in three years is a record of unparalleled incompetence—and we have really paid the price.

It's not my idea of a fair shake when inside speculators with special connections in the Agriculture Department, make windfall profits on grain deals while the producer himself sells at a loss.

It's not my idea of a fair shake for the farmers to sell clean grain, and then to see chaff and dirt and rubble added to a shipment, and have a crooked inspector approve it for shipment overseas.

It's not my idea of a fair shake to have a one-sided market. You know what that means. When prices go down, the "free market" means hands off for the family farm. But when prices go up, the Republicans are the first to slap on controls and export embargoes. Their kind of free market means the lowest parity level in decades.

That kind of market means farm families are going bankrupt trying to produce food that consumers are going broke trying to buy.

It's not a free market. It's not a partnership. And it's not what we're going to have any more, if we all work together this fall.

On the farm, we're all brought up to speak kind words, even of those who have harmed us. And the kindest words you can say about the present Agriculture Department is that it's been true to its own views.

Congress tried to give them a chance by setting milk support at 85 percent of parity. But President Ford vetoed that bill.

Congress tried to give them a chance by sharing conservation costs. But President Ford vetoed that bill.

The Democratic Congresses of years gone by have tried to give them a chance, with rural electrification which made such a difference in my own youth in Georgia, and with other programs, such as the Farm Storage and Direct Loan program. But the Secretary of Agriculture has tried to kill those programs. He has only been held back by the federal courts.

What our farmers and ranchers want is simple. We want a stable and dependable farm program. Final decisions on the farm must often be made 15 to 30 months in advance. Those decisions become little more than desperate gambles, which fewer and fewer young people are willing to take, when we cannot understand or predict basic agriculture policy in Washington.

We want a system of handling carryover stocks which will give our own consumers adequate supplies of food and yet keep control of a good portion of those stocks in the hands of farmers—to prevent dumping to artificially lower farm prices.

We need to take agricultural leadership in Washington out of the hands of the corporate interests and the grain speculators. We need a President and a Secretary of Agriculture who understand the problems of the family farmer and the American consumer—and if I am elected, we are going to have both.

We need to close the revolving door between the Agriculture Department and the large special interests. Under its present leadership, six of the very top assistants have swung in and out of the Department, from large trading companies and speculative firms.

We need to guarantee a decent price for the farmer and a reasonable price for the consumer. Net farm income went down by one-fourth between 1973 and 1975. The costs of production have risen much faster than the prices you can get. Support levels are unreasonably low.

If I am elected, we will make sure that our support prices are at least equal to the cost of production. That will not guarantee a profit—no real farmer wants that—but it will give the determined farmer a chance to stay in business.

Our new farm policy will also help us develop a stable and healthy export market. Our vast acres of agricultural land are not only a great natural resource for us, but also for the entire world. Last year our sales to Japan, to Europe, and to our other customers overseas brought more than $22 billion in foreign exchange.

Agricultural international trade is the gas and oil for the United States. We export the produce of about one out of every three of our acres—60 percent of our wheat—50 percent of rice and soybeans—and 25 percent of our corn.

Our foreign customers know that we produce the best food in the world. They know we can meet competitive world prices. They know we are the world's last dependable granary. But they've started to think we're undependable—not because of our farmers, but because of our Republican Administration. Every time Nixon, Ford, and Butz have imposed a new export embargo, it has caused permanent damage to foreign markets for farm products. Every time they delay tough and honest grain inspection, the damage is multiplied.

It shouldn't be that way. With new leadership in the Agriculture Department, with a new and stable farm policy, we can win back our reputation as a dependable supplier.

Farmers are the first and foremost environmentalists. We have to use the same resources, and the same land, over and over again. One of the greatest tragedies of the last eight years is the way the administration has cut back on farm conservation efforts. As a companion to building production and stable prices, we must also have conservation programs to build back the land.

We are going to take the family farmer off the public enemy list I haven't met a small farmer who wants to be on welfare or guaranteed a profit without work, but we should take away his chains. The general public must understand the farmer's problems. The average family farm represents an investment of $300,000 in land and equipment—much of it on credit, of course. If the farmer could invest all that money in the bank, it would earn at least $15,000 in interest every year. In farming, after the entire family works all year, they earn about $10,000 or $12,000—3 percent or 4 percent a year on this investment.

We need a true and continuing partnership between consumers, producers of food and fiber, and our own government.

Estate taxes on the average lifetime investment of our farm families will come to $65,000—far more than they can afford. If I am elected, we will reduce the estate tax burden, and base the estate tax value of the land on its use for agriculture, rather than its potential value for commercial subdivision.

Those of us who have spent many years on the farm know the price that an indifferent or incompetent government can make us pay. During the Hoover depression, which happened to be the time I was growing up on the farm, the amount of labor expended for any sort of cash return was almost unbelievable. In 1933 peanuts sold for as little as one cent per pound. A farmer with all manual labor and using a mule and mule-drawn equipment would break an acre of land, harrow at least twice, plow up the peanuts, shake each vine manually, and then place them on a stack pole, let them cure for eight to ten weeks, haul the stack poles to the threshing machine, separate the peanuts from the vine, and carry his entire crop to market.

In those days, the average yield was 700 pounds, which gave a gross return for all the year's work of only $7 an acre.

The farm is the place where we still believe in a day's work for a day's pay. We fanners don't like to be paid not to produce. But when we do produce, we want to be paid a fair price. And we will be, if you join me in this new partnership.

The farm has left its mark on me. I believe in my country, and I know you do too. I have deep feelings of patriotism. I know they are mirrored here in Iowa, and everywhere else where independent farmers work the land.

I believe in hard work. I believe that the best government is the one closest to the people.

And I believe in a closeknit family.

These things have got to be preserved. They are the values that have lived on the farm and which our government needs to rediscover. They are the values I will carry with me into the White House, if I am elected.

I want to improve the quality of life of our rural people. I live on the outskirts of a little town of only 683 people. I don't care if 100 years from now it still has less than 1,000 population. But it's important to me that my children and your children have as good an education and as high an income, and the same right to shape their own destiny as children who live in the largest or wealthiest community in our nation.

We have a long way to go. We can restore the precious things we've lost, the things which remain strong in rural America. Then all of us can be sure again that we still live in the greatest country on earth.

Jimmy Carter, Address at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347646

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