Letter on the Administration's Proposed Farm Legislation.
My dear Mr. Chairman:
As A Nation we are engaged in the task of giving stability and increasing purchasing power to those who toil in the factory and on the farm. It is true that industrial employment continues to gain and it is true that with few exceptions crops are good and prices for farm products are far above their low levels. This has led some people to say, with a certain degree of weariness, "let well enough alone; let us defer further action at this time."
Industrial work and farm work include the great majority of all Americans who toil. In both groups the curse of the past has been instability—instability of annual income.
That is especially true among the farmers of the Nation. Extremes of farm prices represent the principal cause of suffering, of bankruptcy and of lack of purchasing power among them. There is no benefit to any farmer if he sells his crops for high figures one year and the price drops through the bottom the next year.
We have not solved the problem of crop stability yet, though we have made much progress.' Warning signals are already in sight. Existing laws are not adequate to guarantee future safety.
It is my philosophy that the time to repair a leaky roof is when the sun is shining.
Repeatedly .in the last four years the Agricultural Committees of the Congress have worked with speed and effectiveness to enact emergency farm measures. In 1933 the Agricultural Adjustment Act met a desperate price emergency. In 1934 the Congress made swift action possible in order to cope with the unprecedented drought. In 1936 the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act served to hold the line after the AAA production adjustment program had been stopped by the Supreme Court.
We have been fortunate in the past, even though programs have been put through in the face of actual existing emergencies. Your Committee will, I know, recognize the great difficulty from an administrative standpoint, of carrying through any program on the spur of the moment of threatened disaster.
Though the situation of the moment is excellent, we have no safeguard, even in the year 1938, against the great danger of loss of income due to drought or against the equally great danger of low prices. I have expressed my belief that a program to guard against both these future dangers would be of enormous value not only to farmers but to the consumers of the Nation if it could provide for an ever-normal granary with storage of surpluses grown in big-crop years for use in time of short crops. Good as our present farm program is, it ought to be improved to take care of the consumers' interest in years of bad weather and of the producers' interest in years of good weather.
We welcome the prospect of the early return to well-filled bins, but we seek to avert the danger of ruinously low farm prices if bumper crops and over-hanging surpluses return. They can and should be managed in a way to benefit the entire country.
May I express to you once more my hope that your Committee will go forward and that sympathetic consideration may be given by the Congress: first, to the continuation of the present agricultural conservation program as the foundation of the long-time plan; second, for the assurance of abundance for consumers by storage of substantial reserves of food for use in years of crop failure; third, for protection of farm prices and farm income.
Farmers and consumers can be safeguarded against the disaster that resulted from the accumulation of surpluses by the Federal Farm Board, by the means of adjusting production and marketing of the five major export crops. If such adjustment is made available only after surpluses pile up with crushing effect, the cost will be prohibitive and the results doubtful.
I believe that the cost of this national farm program can be kept in line with the Government's fiscal program. Legislation can be integrated with existing programs in such a way as to involve no increase in expenditures for. the fiscal year 1938 over existing authorizations for the operations of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.
An all-weather farm program can level the peaks of over-supply into the valleys of shortage and disaster. It can serve alike the welfare of the farmer and the consumer, of business and of labor.
The vital interests of the Nation demand that sooner or later protective measures of this type be placed in effect. If we wait until next year the ultimate objective will be the same but we may be faced with emergency conditions which would make the legislative and administrative problem more difficult because of the very fact of moving hurriedly under the fire of an emergency.
Very sincerely yours,
Hon. Ellison D. Smith, Chairman,
Committee on Agriculture,
United States Senate,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on the Administration's Proposed Farm Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208648