Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

May 13, 1937

Held on the President's train en route Galveston, Tex., to Washington, D. C.

Q. Where did you talk to the cattle men?

THE PRESIDENT: We all sat around in a circle and ate some excellent beef; and they talked and I talked and we had a general conversation and individual conversations; and we talked about the whole general cattle problem. Let me talk some more background to you. The objective of these trips, you know, is not fishing. You have probably discovered that by this time. I don't give a continental damn whether I catch a fish or not. The chief objective is to get a perspective on the scene which I cannot get in Washington any more than any of you boys can.

Q. [George Durno] Right.

THE PRESIDENT: You have to go a long ways off so as to see things in their true perspective; because if you sit in one place, right in the middle of the woods, the little incidents that don't mean a hill of beans get magnified by a President just as they do by a correspondent. Am I right, John? [Mr. O'Brien]

Q. Right.

THE PRESIDENT: And that is why I take a good many trips in the course of the year through the country. I am not talking about a trip down to South America; that is a different thing and gives you a different perspective. On this particular trip, as you know, I have seen a good many people—not only people I have seen in crowds, for you get the feeling of a crowd, but also people I have talked to personally.

I have talked to people down in Mississippi, in Louisiana and a whole lot of people in Texas. I have talked to various people down around Arkansas Pass. It has given us a pretty good picture of the problems in the southwest and in the Mississippi Valley.

I saw a lot of oil men and cattle men. I talked with the Commissioner of Agriculture of Texas and with one of the big exporters of cotton on the subject of cotton, George Sealy.

Up at Elliott's, I talked to a whole lot of cattle men, not just from Texas. Elliott had people there from New Mexico, California, Arizona, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Chicago. There was a man there that puts on a big Chicago cattle show, for instance. There were people from other States, Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming and Nebraska. There was one man from Tennessee representing the southern cattle men's point of view.

We did not talk only cattle; we talked about economics along general lines, about the fact that what has hurt the country in the past has been the tremendous fluctuation in prices, whether it be cotton, corn, hogs, wheat or cattle. As several of them said to me yesterday, speaking of cattle, it is not only 2 cents a pound for cattle that "busts" them; it is the price that goes too high that "busts" them equally. That is because when the price goes too high, obviously people stop eating beef. You get a consumers' strike; and you get a consumers' strike also when cotton goes too high, or wheat, or hogs, or corn; it is all the same thing.

Of course on the other side of the picture, there is one element in the community that is very local, and gets a tremendous amount of publicity, that does not agree with this theory at all. That is the element in the community that makes money from the wide swings, upward and downward. I pointed out to the cattle men, what they already knew, that our objective as to cattle, as to all the other major crops, is to bring the price to a point where the growers of cattle will find it brings them a reasonable profit; and then to try to keep it either from going through the roof or dropping through the bottom.

That does not mean price-fixing at all. It means stabilizing within reasonable limits.

Of course we talked also about the other phase of the cattle business, which is the processing and distribution. We talked along the same general lines, that in processing and distribution there are apt to be sudden or drastic rises or declines; that they too should be eliminated because they put the industry into the speculative element and hit the consumer. That was the general line of our talk. And, mind you, the same principle applies whether you talk cattle, cotton, corn, hogs or wheat. It is all the same theory.

The thing that impressed me on this whole trip is that the people, as a whole, understand what it is all about. And, in the same way, the people understand the unemployment problem. Taking it by and large, they are just exactly as intent on going ahead with orderly progress, toward the many objectives not yet attained, as they were last November or in 1934 or in 1932.

MR. MCINTYRE: Would you object, Mr. President, if the boys put a rather liberal interpretation on that background—on this latter part of it?

THE PRESIDENT: What do you mean by a liberal interpretation?

Q. No direct quotes, Mr. President.


And, it might be worth while- you need not repeat it but if you want to put in all the things for which "I have just begun to fight"—take what I used in the Madison Square Garden speech; that is a pretty good list of objectives. In other words, we are still doing business at the old stand ....

Q. Getting back to this price stabilization. Can you tell us how you propose to bring it about?

THE PRESIDENT: Stabilization? Don't use the word "stabilization." Stabilization connotes to most people price-fixing. Put it this way: Stabilizing within reasonable limits so that it won't go through the roof or down through the bottom.

Q. How?

THE PRESIDENT: Along the general lines which we are talking about: not the letter but the spirit of Triple A. In other words, the details of Triple A may be entirely changed, but the same objectives would remain. Wheat is a very good example. This year we have a perfectly enormous wheat acreage, but the carry-over of wheat this year is too small. With that carry-over there isn't any danger of anyone going without bread because there still is a carry-over; but, when you have a small carry-over, there is a danger that a small group, with or without concerted action, might in effect corner the market and put the price of wheat so high, that it will affect people in the city who buy loaves of bread. So, therefore, the objective is to increase the carry-over of wheat this time; but, if that carry-over is going to be too high again this year or next year, the objective will be to cut down that carry-over of wheat, so that you won't have a carry-over large enough to give us 30-cent wheat again.

Q. That comes pretty close to being an ever-normal granary plan, does it not?


Q. There won't be any chance of new legislation, will there?

THE PRESIDENT: There may. That is a thing we haven't got to yet.

Q. How about similar action with regard to industry?

THE PRESIDENT: That is an entirely different thing. There isn't any news on that ....

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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