John F. Kennedy photo

Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Auditorium at Des Moines, Iowa

August 21, 1960

QUESTION. I would like to ask the Senator what his reaction to this entire midwestern trip is, and how much of the Midwest does he think he can carry.

Senator KENNEDY. First, I want to express my appreciation to Governor Loveless and to all of you. My reaction to this trip is that it has been most useful and worth while. As I said earlier this afternoon, the decline in agricultural income is the No. 1 domestic problem of the United States. This meeting held today, and the only one that we shall hold in the month of August, I think indicates the importance that we put in demonstrating that the Democratic Party is determined to reverse this downward curve. We are going to move it upward, and I think that in November we will be endorsed in this view by the farmers of the Midwest.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, you heard the milk comments of Governor Freeman. Are you for that type of a program that will enable the midwestern milk to get into the big eastern markets?

Governor LOVELESS. The question was, had the Senator heard the comments of Governor Freeman in relation to the milk standardization acts, and do you favor it?

Senator KENNEDY. Our constitutional meeting or convention was formed in order to originally promote interstate commerce and provide for its free flow. I don't believe that any unnecessary or artificial standard should be used any place, in any area, in any part of American life to block the flow of commerce.

QUESTION. This is kind of a long question because it grows out of a statement that Senator Scott made on College News Conference today.

Governor LOVELESS. Do you have it written so that I could read it from here?


Governor LOVELESS. This is the question: This is a question that arises about the charges made by Senator Scott, of Pennsylvania, on "College News Conference" today. He declared that the Kennedy family fortunes have been used in an attempt to buy votes for Kennedy. The Republicans, he said, would have a lot of questions to ask about the use of money in the campaign. He said that evidence of your expenditures to date vary from 1 1/2 million to 7 million, and he said "I am sure that more will be used." He said that Kennedy cash would be used to buy the farm vote, and pay the transportation for immigrants.

Senator KENNEDY. Senator Scott as you know is a member of the Republican Truth Squad, but he may well have lost his membership today. I think Mr. Scott is himself a member of the five-man strategy board of the Vice President, and I hope that we are not going to be taken down the old road of campaign tactics and untrue charges. I don't share in the last part of the question, to "turn on the faucets to buy the farm vote." I don't share the view that the farm vote is for sale. I think that the voters in November will deal with the "truth squads," and the strategy boards, and I believe the Vice President of the United States.

Governor LOVELESS. The next question is, What is your opinion of nationally organized labor unions for farmers?

Senator KENNEDY. I think it is appropriate that farmers organize together. If the phrase "nationally organized labor unions" refers to the farmers union and other organizations in which farmers who think alike are joined together in a national farm organization such as the Grange and the Farm Bureau - whatever group you think you should join, you should join, because you ought to make your views felt. I think what would be the most helpful, however, would be if the various farm organizations who do speak for the farmers would speak together and in one voice, commodity by commodity, joining together. Then I think we could begin to move ahead in Washington.

Governor LOVELESS. This is the next question: What sort of qualifications will you look for in the man you would select for the next Secretary of Agriculture?

Senator KENNEDY. First, I think that he should have been at some part of his life a farmer. Secondly, I think that he should live in the Midwest United States. Thirdly, he should believe that his responsibility is to preserve the family farm and not liquidate it. Fourth, and finally, it would be helpful if he were a Democrat.

Governor LOVELESS. This is the next question: Senator, this falls in sort of line with the last one. We have heard much about the family-sized farm. Will the Senator please give us his definition of a family-sized farm?

Senator KENNEDY. I would say it is a farm that a family can work. And No.2, the family can make a living off of.

Governor LOVELESS. This is a question: How can we best attack the problems resulting from the nuclear arms race?

Senator KENNEDY. I spent with Senator Jackson and Senator Symington, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, last night and this morning at the SAC Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebr., which as you know is the great retaliatory shield of the United States and the entire free world. I think that we have many arms in the arsenal, and one of course is that, and we should keep that second to none. Secondly, I hope that we can try to work out with our adversaries, the Communists, a realistic system with inspection for the lessening of arms tension, for the cessation of nuclear tests and for the beginning of disarmament, and lift that heavy burden from us all. Thirdly, I think that we should assist those countries to the south of us who are attempting to solve their staggering economic problems and help them join with us. Fourth and finally, we should continue to demonstrate this: Today in talking to a major in SAC who had just finished a 24-hour flight, I said to him: "Why do you serve at SAC?" He said, "I serve at SAC because I like being on the first team." I think that as long as Americans feel like that, we are going to be safe and maintain our freedom.

Governor LOVELESS. This is the next question: Senator, do you believe that the Corrupt Practices Act of 1935 and Taft-Hartley should be revised allowing corporations and unions to contribute openly to political campaigns? "It takes money to get elected and should corporations and unions contribute?"

Senator KENNEDY. I would be opposed to changing that provision of the law as it affects the national campaigns. I think what is important is for all of us not only to vote and be interested, but also participate in the financing of a campaign. Personally I hope that the day will come that the program of Theodore Roosevelt will come about, which provided for Federal financing of presidential elections. But in the meantime I would be opposed to permitting corporations or unions to use union dues or corporation money to finance directly national campaigns.

Governor LOVELESS. This gentleman asks your reactions to the statement last night that Mr. Benson made, that he is being made the scapegoat for the Democratic Congress in farm policies.

Senator KENNEDY. I thought he was being made the scapegoat for the Vice President, who says he has been disagreeing with him for years unsuccessfully. The fact of the matter is, as Senator Lyndon Johnson said, I don't make Benson the scapegoat. I think the Republican Party's farm policy is unfortunate, and I don't think that that farm policy will be changed merely by changing the Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. Seaton, the Secretary of the Interior, speaking in Omaha, Nebr., this morning, one of the five men who are on Vice President Nixon's strategy board along with Senator Scott, stated that the trouble with Benson program is that it had not been adopted by the Democratic Congress. Now, if that is the plan of the Nixon strategy board, to elect a Republican Congress and a Republican President so that they can write into the statute books the entire Benson program, I don't want any of it.

Governor LOVELESS. The next question: Do you expect an emergency farm bill to be passed during this session of the Congress? Do you think an emergency bill is necessary?

Senator KENNEDY. We did pass a bill on Friday, which will raise the support price of grade B milk from about $3 to about $3.24. Senator Proxmire introduced the bill, which Senator Humphrey and Senator Symington and others cosponsored. But I have a list here of the bills which the President of the United States has vetoed. I think in order to write into the statute books a farm program it is going to require a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President. The President of the United States vetoed in 1956 a measure to restore 90 percent of farm parity prices. He vetoed in 1958 a bill freezing farm price supports at the 1957 level. He vetoed in 1959 a wheat price support bill which would have raised the support from 75 to 90 percent in return for an acreage reduction.

Now, I don't think that there is any sense in our thinking it is possible for us to go ahead and then find in the farm area that we are going to be set back. I think that we can go ahead, but I think that we need the endorsement of the American people, which I think we can get for the Democratic platform and its program, and we can get that endorsement next November and go to work.

Governor LOVELESS. How did the Kennedy-Truman ranks stand after your Missouri trip?

Senator KENNEDY. They are as one, I am glad to say. I hope that I can do as well as he did. He told me all about how he did it. I hope that I will come out as well as he did.

Governor LOVELESS. This is the question: Senator Kennedy, you have stated that you will let the farmers decide the farm programs they want. Which farmers?

Senator KENNEDY. I would think the farmers chosen by their fellow farmers in the counties and in the States, so that it comes from the farmers through the Department of Agriculture. We will have not only legislation moving from the top down, but also support for that legislation and suggestions moving from the bottom up. The kind of a meeting that we had today indicates, I think, that partnership which can exist between the farmers of this country and the Federal Government.

John F. Kennedy, Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Auditorium at Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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