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Radio Address on the American Farmer

October 27, 1972

Good afternoon:

In every American home, there is special respect and gratitude for the breadwinner--the one who provides the rest of the family with food to eat and clothes to wear.

The breadwinners of our national family are this country's nearly 3 million farmers.

American agriculture leads our own economy and the world in productivity. Because of the remarkable productivity of our farms and ranches, the people of the United States have more and better food to eat, at lower cost, than any other people anywhere. A smaller percentage of the family budget goes for food in America than in any other country in the world.

Because of that productivity, we are able to export vast quantities of our farm products to help feed the world.

Because of that productivity, we have been able in the last 4 years to more than triple the Federal effort to eliminate hunger in America, as well as maintaining generous food assistance programs abroad.

All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to those Americans for whom agriculture is a proud way of life.

Sometimes there is a tendency to think of farmers as an isolated special interest group. For example, it was suggested that I should address this talk today exclusively to farm people, and that it should be broadcast very early in the morning when most of the radio audience would be farmers.

But I wanted instead to talk with all Americans on this subject and to make the point that in this election campaign the farm issues and the national issues are one and the same, because farm people want what is best for America.

They want to keep our country strong, for they know that America's power is the guardian of peace in the world.

They want to end our involvement in Vietnam through peace with honor, not through surrender.

They want responsible government spending that can lead to tax relief and prevent renewed inflation--because inflation hits farmers doubly hard. It raises their costs on the one hand, and it erodes their buying power on the other.

Farm people want to preserve the moral and spiritual values, the religious faith, the patriotism which have always been so unshakably strong on the farms and in the rural communities of America's heartland.

I am committed to achieving all these things. But I want to dwell now on one additional commitment--something which farmers, like the rest of us, want and deserve, but which for too many years they have not been receiving--and that is a full, fair share in our Nation's prosperity.

When city people shop at the supermarket or sit down to a good meal, it is easy for them to take their food for granted and to forget the men and women whose hard work and sacrifice produced it.

But when you realize that the farmer's workweek runs almost double what most Americans are used to, when you realize that high risks and heavy production costs keep his profit margins paper thin, when you realize that he must often go deep into debt to maintain the $100,000 worth of capital assets required for family farming, then it is clear that farm people deserve a better reward than an average income which today is only 80 percent of the average for nonfarm people.

Helping farmers to do better has been one of the major commitments of my Administration.

When we took office, farm prices were stagnating, farm exports were down, inflation was eating heavily into farm income, family farms were disappearing at a rapid rate, and, worst of all, it seemed that Federal farm policy under the previous Administration had been part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

We set out immediately to turn that situation around. Four harvests have come in since then, and with each harvest has come evidence of solid progress for the American farmer.

Net farm income--what is left after the bills are paid--will average 24 percent higher for the 4 years of this Administration than the average for the last Administration. Net farm income this year will finally break the all-time record set 25 years ago.

During the period 1961 to 1968, farm people's per capita income after taxes averaged about one-third lower than what nonfarm people were making. But now that gap has narrowed to one-fifth, and we are going to keep working until there is no gap at all.

We have also made progress in checking the rapid decline in numbers of American farms. Farm units were disappearing at the rate of 106,000 every year during the 8 years before we took office. Since then we have cut this annual loss by more than half. This means more hope for the future in rural America, with more people able to keep on working their land as they have a right to do.

A big share of the reason for this progress is the character of farm people themselves. These are people of courage, self-reliance, and independent spirit. They just don't know the word "quit." Today, as in years past, they are the backbone of America.

But another reason things are better is that farm policies of this Administration have responded to farmers' own desires for change.

Four years ago, everyone was fed up with rigid government farm programs that kept farmers in a straitjacket. So we looked for a way to give farmers more freedom. We sought an expanding agriculture rather than a shrinking agriculture, a voluntary farm program rather than compulsory controls, a market oriented agriculture rather than a government-dominated agriculture.

The Agriculture Act of 1970, which passed with broad bipartisan support in the Congress, has moved strongly in this direction. The new program allows a farmer to set aside a certain number of acres to keep from creating price depressing surpluses, and then the farmer is free to plant what he wants on his remaining acres for his own best market advantage. More farmers are in these programs today than ever before.

An expanding agriculture requires expanded international markets for our farm products. When we took office, agricultural exports were stagnating. And now they are setting new records year after year.

From the annual level of $5.7 billion under the last Administration, farm exports in 1972 will pass $8 billion for the first time. And we are going to keep them growing toward our goal of $10 billion of exports every year.

We have gained our first billion dollar annual customer of farm products--Japan.

We have opened new markets in Communist countries by lifting the restrictive ocean shipping regulations of the last Administration. It was this action that led to last winter's $150 million sale of feed grains to the Soviet Union, and then to the 3-year grain sales agreement which we signed with the Soviets in July--the biggest peacetime transaction of its kind in history.

This sale holds enormous benefits for all Americans. It will raise crop value for American farmers by a billion dollars in 1972 alone. It will improve our Nation's balance of payments by a billion dollars. It will create at least 30,000 new American jobs. And it will save the taxpayers some $200 million.

Equally important, it is a striking example of the way our farm policy and our foreign policy are working hand in hand to strengthen the peaceful ties between great powers which were adversaries only a few years ago.

The new relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China, which began when I visited Peking earlier this year, is another situation in which our farmers are both contributing to peace and profiting from peace. The grain sales which we have made to the People's Republic of China only scratch the surface of an immense trade potential between our two countries.

And today I am happy to announce that an additional contract for the sale of 300,000 tons of American corn to the People's Republic of China was signed within the last few days.

Leading the way in our efforts to bring U.S. farm products to the world, and to bring a better day for America's farmers and rural people, have been the two able and energetic men who have served in my Cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture--Cliff Hardin and Earl Butz.

It has been said of the present Secretary of Agriculture that "Nobody bullies Earl Butz." The people in Washington have learned how true that is, so have the Nation's farmers, and we can be proud to have Secretary Butz on our team.

This autumn of 1972 is a season of harvest not only for the farmers across America's countryside but for our Nation as a whole.

At home, we are beginning to reap the results of a long battle to launch a new prosperity in America, a time of full employment without inflation and without war. We are moving toward greater domestic peace, stability, and national unity. Around the world, the chances seem better and better that our children will be able to grow up in a full generation of peace.

Now the great question is: How shall we use that peace once it is achieved? We must use it as an opportunity to better the human condition, to lift up the hearts and the hopes of all mankind. Here the American farmer has a great role to play.

It is significant, I think, that the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was not a statesman, not a social activist, but a man of the soil--Dr. Norman Borlaug, the man whose research with high-yield wheat has launched the "Green Revolution" which is helping to feed hungry millions around the globe today.

I wish it were possible to present a peace prize to every farmer and every farm family in America in recognition of what they have done in years past to help keep our country strong and free, and in recognition also of what they can do in years ahead to help unite all peoples in a new alliance against the common enemies of mankind--hunger and poverty and misery in the world.

But farm people do not ask for prizes. What they do ask is a fair chance to succeed, a fair share in America. That is what I am determined to help them achieve.

I will not be satisfied until farmers have the rewards, the satisfaction, and the income they so richly have earned.

I will not be satisfied until we are assured that rural America will continue to be a place of promise--a good place to live.

I pledge that during the next 4 years we will do everything in our power to justify the confidence which the strong people of America's rural heartland place in the future of agriculture, the future of America, and the future of peace in the world.

Thank you, and good afternoon.

Note: The President spoke at 12:07 p.m. from the Library at the White House. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio. Time for the broadcast was purchased by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President.

The President spoke from a prepared text. An advance text of his address was released on the same day.

Richard Nixon, Radio Address on the American Farmer Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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