Jimmy Carter photo

Interview in "The Farm Journal"

October 01, 1976

Q. You have criticized the Ford Administration for allowing farm income to slip in the last year. What would you do to increase farm income?

Governor Carter. "Allowing" is the wrong word. "Slip" is the wrong word, too. I criticize the Nixon/Ford-Butz Administration for CAUSING farm income to DROP. Nixon was President when some of the causative decisions were made—those which disrupted grain and livestock producers' plans and operations through price freezes in 1971 and 1973, mismanagement of massive grain sales to Russia in 1972, and the embargo on exports of soybeans and cottonseed in 1973. Ford was President when three more were imposed. Farm income dropped one fourth between 1973 and 1975.

Without being able to predict the future, nobody can give a pat formula for increasing farm income. One need is to bring inflation under control; another, put competent people in charge of trade policy.

Q. What do you propose for the Farm Act of 1977? You have said you favor target price levels high enough to give farmers "at least the cost of production " In calculating production costs, would you figure land at its acquisition cost, at its agricultural value or at its current market value?

Governor Carter. In the public interest, we must develop a farm program which will help keep the risks of full-scale agricultural protection within acceptable limits and afford family-type farms the opportunity to continue to compete in an economy dominated by giant conglomerates. We must develop a system of handling carryover stocks which will assure our own consumers adequate supplies of food and yet keep control of a good portion of those stocks in the hands of farmers so as to prevent dumping. Unlike President Ford, who has repeatedly vetoed the actions of the elected Congress although he was not elected to his office, I would cooperate with and rely upon the Congress.

I have stated that support prices, in my opinion, should be at least equal to the cost of production but should not guarantee a profit. By keeping this principle in mind, we can arrive at a common sense answer to the long debated question of how to calculate cost of production. Permanent farm land should be valued for estate taxes at its productive value and not for its value to land speculators.

Q. You propose creating a 60 day reserve of grain. Who would hold title to the reserve? How would you release it so as not to break prices for farmers?

Governor Carter. It is important that we establish a national grain reserve and distinguish between that reserve and a mere surplus. We need it as a "shock absorber" to meet dire emergency situations and to avoid any necessity or excuse for embargoes such as those imposed by the Nixon/Ford-Butz Administration. Indeed, the establishment of an appropriate national grain reserve would be the first step I would take to minimize any possible need for embargoes in the future. The reserve would be held largely in the hands of farmers. Price stability would be maintained by establishing definite rules for building up, maintaining, and releasing stocks and making the rules well known in advance and fair to both producers and consumers.

Q. You have said you would never embargo grain exports. What would you do if consumers demanded action to cool off food prices? Can you foresee a situation where you might put price controls on food?

Governor Carter. I am committed to a coherent, coordinated economic policy for the nation as a whole that will avoid the shocks and surprises, the on-again, off-again programs and rapid policy changes which have characterized the last 8 years. I am committed, moreover, to remove the wedge that the Nixon/ Ford-Butz Administration has driven between farmers and consumers. I foresee no need for price controls on food.

Q. The administration says we must reform disaster relief programs. What would you do, if anything, to correct or improve disaster relief?

Governor Carter. I understood that Secretary Butz recommended abolishing, not just reforming, disaster relief programs. Judging by reports that come to me from drought areas, the main trouble with the disaster relief program is that it is slowly and badly administered. It seems to me that farmers are so constantly threatened by natural disasters which could quickly put them out of business that the public should continue to offer some protection. We should make sure that programs do not overlap.

Q. Do you favor tightening or loosening requirements for food stamps? Do you favor stamps for strikers?

Governor Carter. I believe that eligibility requirements for food stamps need to be tightened, and I think Congress is moving in this direction, but I do not belittle the Food Stamp Program as does the administration. Of all our current welfare programs, only the Food Stamp Program gives universal coverage to all Americans in financial need. The Food Stamp Program, however, needs to be considered as part of a fundamental reform of our welfare system. The system should be streamlined and simplified with less paperwork, fewer regulations, improved coordination and reduced local disparities. Equally important, the program should be designed to encourage employment. It should never be more profitable to stay on welfare than to work.

Q. Do you favor continuing the use of the parity formula? At what level would you set dairy price supports, and how often would you adjust them?

Governor Carter. The parity formula still has some utility as a measure of the purchasing power of a bushel of grain, pound of cotton, hundredweight of milk and so on. (On the average, such purchasing power is now less than three-fourths as high as in 1967.) While we should continue to calculate parity, cost of production would be a better guide for determining price support levels, including those of milk. I endorse the concept of quarterly review of milk support prices. A Carter Administration would ensure that support prices were always at a level which would enable the United States, to support a vigorous domestic dairy industry.

Q. You say you are in favor of the Humphrey-Hawkins bill. How many jobs do you expect it would create? How much would it add to the federal deficit?

Governor Carter. Under the depressed economic conditions imposed by the policies of the Nixon/Ford Administration, too many of those who should be working and paying taxes are collecting unemployment compensation or other welfare payments in order to survive. This year alone the federal government will spend nearly $20 billion on unemployment compensation. In contrast, spending on job development is only $2 billion. The goal of a Carter Administration will be to reduce adult unemployment to 3 percent within 4 years. I support the commitment to full employment made by the Humphrey-Hawkins bill. But the bill can be improved. It is not flexible, does not give enough emphasis to private sector jobs nor to reducing inflation.

Q. What level of inflation do you consider tolerable in this country? How do you propose to keep inflation from going above that level?

Governor Carter. The inflation rate of the Nixon/Ford Administration has been intolerable. It has averaged more than 6 percent since 1970 and is projected by the administration to continue at an unprecedented rate of 6 to 7 percent until 1978. By contrast, the inflation rate of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations was tolerable. Inflation increased at an average annual rate of only 2 percent, and the purchasing power of the average family steadily increased. The Democratic Party has thus met the goals of full employment with stable prices in the past, and it can do it again.

Q. Oil companies say they can't afford to drill more wells at todays prices, and Congress refuses to decontrol oil and gas. How would you resolve this?

Governor Carter. There is no need to deregulate the price of old oil. The price of all domestic oil should be kept below that of OPEC oil. However, our natural gas supply is rapidly approaching critically low levels. Under the present regulated price structure, producers who attempt to exploit these deeper wells are forced to take a loss on every cubic foot of gas they pump. We need to deregulate the price of gas for five years, with presently existing contracts remaining in force. At the end of that time, the programs should be evaluated and new actions taken.

NOTE: The APP used October 1 as the date for this document. The original source stated that this appeared in the "October 1976" issue.

Jimmy Carter, Interview in "The Farm Journal" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347552