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Letter from Senator John F. Kennedy to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federations

October 11, 1960


President, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation

Mr. T. J. HITCH,

President, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation


President, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

GENTLEMEN: Thank you for your letter of September 21. I'm sorry your letter did not arrive until after my visit to Memphis, thereby precluding an opportunity to visit with you personally regarding matters discussed in your letter. However, since we did not have such an opportunity in Memphis, I appreciate very much that you wrote me and expressed your suggestions and recommendations dealing with agriculture.

As I have stated on a number of occasions I believe that the farm problem is the No.1 domestic issue in this campaign. The farmers of America cannot tolerate 4 more years of the farm policies which, since 1952 have driven farm prices down 17 percent and net farm income down 26 percent; and the purchasing power of their income down 29 percent. The farm platform of the Democratic Party is the strongest pledge ever given to the farmers of America by any political party in history. I stand behind that pledge and I intend to make good on it beginning next January.

One of the key points of the Democratic platform - one in which I deeply believe - is our promise to work with bona fide farmers and their leaders in developing programs designed to meet the specific needs and circumstances of each commodity.

We all appreciate the tremendous progess the cotton industry has made in production practices, in improving quality and in promoting and developing new uses and new markets. Cotton has a bright future. With wise action on the part of all who are concerned, the cotton industry can continue to expand and prosper. A new Democratic administration will consult closely with cotton producers and their representatives to develop improved programs to meet needs as they arise.

I believe strongly in the need for a dynamic, growing national and world economy. I want to see all segments of the Cotton industry share in the expanded domestic and export markets that will result from economic growth.

I do not intend to permit the liquidation of the cotton farmers of the South. I believe that cotton acreage has been cut far enough. Cotton growers have gone from a top acreage of about 46 million acres before World War II to a planted acreage of somewhat more than 16 million in 1960.

In recent years, cotton prices were forced down at the same time acreage was being cut. This intolerable situation must be stopped and reversed.

Most important of all, the income of the cotton farmers must be increased to parity levels so that the cottongrower has an opportunity to earn returns on his labor, investment, and managerial efforts comparable to the returns received by workers and businessmen in other industries.

Beginning next January, the new Democratic administration will work with cotton farmers and their leaders, and with their Congressmen to develop specific program improvements best suited to the long-range needs of the cotton industry.

As to the immediate situation, most cotton farmers and leaders agree we have reached a reasonably satisfactory point in our supply and carryover situation. I believe most cotton leaders agree the present carryover of 7 to 8 million bales for the new cotton year is not out of line.

This has been a remarkable achievement and one in which cotton farmers and the Democratic Congress have worked hand in hand to bring about. At the beginning of the 1956 crop year there was a carryover of 14 million bales. Cotton export sales had been declining each year, and in the 1955-56 marketing year exports reached the dangerously low point of 2.2 million bales. This situation was caused by the administration's refusal to sell American cotton at competitive prices in world markets. In 1955 the Democratic Congress directed Secretary of Agriculture Benson to carry out an aggressive export sales program. Then in 1956, because the Republican administration refused to continue the cotton export program, the Democratic Congress passed a law specifically directing the Secretary of Agriculture to sell our cotton at competitive prices.

As a result, while domestic utilization remained fairly constant, 22 1/2 million bales of American cotton have been exported in the last 4 years and the carryover has been cut from 14 to less than 8 million bales.

With regard to the situation in wheat, I believe the program best suited to the specific situation and circumstances in that commodity should follow the general approach of the program developed early this year by the National Association of Wheat Growers in cooperation with other organizations representing producers in the major wheat producing areas. For other commodities, as in the case of cotton, the Secretary of Agriculture in a new Democratic administration will work with farmers themselves to develop commodity programs to meet the special problems of their commodity.

You are right about the need for an expanded and well-coordinated research program, with major emphasis on developing new and better uses and markets as well as on reducing production costs and improving quality and efficient distribution.

I am enclosing a copy of "Agricultural Policy for the New Frontier," which sets forth what I believe to be desirable courses of action, or policy guidelines, for agriculture.

Thank you sincerely for your interest and your thoughtful suggestions. I am confident that with determination and good will, we can develop satisfactory and effective farm policies to assure consumers today and in future generations of a secure abundance of food and fiber, with full parity of opportunity and living standards for farm people.



John F. Kennedy, Letter from Senator John F. Kennedy to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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