Harry S. Truman photo

A Recorded Interview With the President.

September 29, 1952

[ Broadcast from Grand forks, North Dakota, at 9:15 p.m. ]

INTERVIEWER. Mr. President, in an election year, there are always many questions that the American people would like to ask in order to clarify their thinking about basic political issues. One of the big issues this year, as always, is Democratic versus Republican farm policy. We have chosen a number of the most important questions bearing on the agricultural issue with the thought that the people of North Dakota would appreciate hearing your views.

Q. The first question is: Do you think the Midwest farm vote this year will go Democratic or Republican ?

THE PRESIDENT. I understand that the poll takers aren't having much luck in getting farmers to say how they are planning to vote. Incidentally, that's a repetition of 1948 and maybe it's a good sign for the Democrats. Now, I'm neither a poll-taker nor a prophet. But I don't see that there's anything in the Democratic record on agriculture of the past 4 years that should cause farmers to turn away from the party if they voted Democratic in 1948.

And I can't find anything in the Republican record on agriculture-either in the past 4 years or in the past 30 years--that would invite farm people to vote Republican.

I suppose I'm a little prejudiced; nevertheless I can't recall a platform in recent years that had a better farm plank than this year's Democratic platform--and I can't think of one that ever had a worse farm plank than you'll find in this year's Republican platform.

It's so bad that the Republican candidate tried to cover it up the first chance he had. In fact the Republican candidate is trying now to stand on the Democratic platform.

Under those circumstances, why should any farmer who voted Democratic 4 years ago, change over now?

I might point out that the election was very close here in North Dakota in 1948. A switch of 10,000 votes would have put this State in the Democratic column, where it ought always to have been.

Q. Mr. President, there have been charges that you fooled the farmer in 1948 by saying that the 80th Congress prevented the Commodity Credit Corporation from providing grain storage. Would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I certainly will. The charge is just plain bunk and originated in a damn lie in a speech made on the floor of the Senate.

Now where did this phony charge come from? The first time I heard it, it came from the lips of Tom Dewey--the man behind the general at the Chicago convention. And when did he make the charge? In 1948? In 1949? In 1950? In 1951?

No, he didn't make it until this year-nearly 4 years after this terrible thing was supposed to have happened.

Since when do farmers need to have their thinking done for them by a city Republican-and 4 years late at that?

Incidentally, this charge has been answered point by point by the Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Brannan.

I said in 1948 that the 80th Congress stuck a pitchfork in the farmer's back by crippling the grain storage program. I say it again right now. And I say, further, that the Republicans in the 81st and 82d Congresses tried to pitchfork the farmer over and over again. They tried to pitchfork you by voting against REA and the agricultural conservation program. They tried to pitchfork you by levying crippling taxes against co-ops and by wrecking crop insurance. They didn't get away with any of these things--but they sure did try.

Q. Mr. President, what is the difference between the Democratic and Republican position on price supports?

THE PRESIDENT. There's just one reason why that's a hard question to answer. The reason is that nobody knows what the Republican position on price supports really is. They have at least four positions.

There's the position of the 80th Congress. They voted a sliding scale with the lower level of support at 60 percent of parity. Why, even in 1932 farm prices averaged about 60 percent of parity.

Then there's the position taken by the Republican platform. It says, "We favor a farm program aimed at full parity prices for all farm products in the marketplace." Get that last phrase--in the marketplace.

Now what do those words mean ? They mean that the Republicans will be very happy to see farmers get fair prices--if prices happen to be fair. If they don't happen to be fair--well, prosperity is just around the corner. They don't say that it may take 10 years to turn that corner. That's exactly the kind of farm program under which one farmer out of four went broke between 1920 and 1932.

The Republican platform says, "Our program should include commodity loans on all nonperishable products supported"--now note this--"supported at the level necessary to maintain a balanced production."

What does that mean? It means that commodity loans should not be used to help farmers receive fair prices--but primarily to balance production. In other words, if a commodity loan at 25 percent of parity will help balance production--by starving half the wheat growers out of farming--then the loan level should be 25 percent of parity. I haven't read such a silly statement in a farm plank since 1932--when the Republicans said that, under their administrations--and now I quote their words--"the position of agriculture was gradually improved."

Now I'll tell you about perishables. The Republican platform says, "Where Government action on perishable commodities is desirable, we recommend locally controlled marketing agreements and other voluntary methods."

Surely, they know better than that. We already have marketing agreements in operation. They help, but they don't do the whole job that's needed. How could you use marketing agreements, for example, to support prices of hogs or eggs ?

Then, there's the position of the Republican candidate. He walks the farm plank-right off the end of it and into the deep water. He says he's for the present legislation providing supports at 90 percent of parity on basic commodities through 1954. He even tries to make out that the Republicans favored this extension of supports.

Now the fact is that 53 percent of House Republicans were against it--and were recorded that way on the vote. And Senator Taft says that if he had been there he'd have voted against it, too. And Senator Taft is General Eisenhower's principal adviser now.

The Republican candidate also says that a way must be found to protect prices of perishables. But his running mate--the junior partner on the ticket--is on record as voting against supports on perishables.

So there you have the Republican Party-split at least four ways. You have the position of the presidential candidate--then the contrary position of the vice-presidential candidate--then the position of the platform--and finally the position of the Both Congress.

Now as to the Democratic position on price supports, that's easy. There's only one position, and that is stated clearly in our farm plank. Here it is. "We will continue to protect the producers of basic agricultural commodities under terms of a mandatory price support program at not less than 90 percent of parity. We continue to advocate practical methods for extending support to other storables and to the producers of perishable commodities which account for three-fourths of all farm income."

Q. Mr. President, the Republicans have charged that agricultural research has been neglected under the Democratic administration. Is that correct?

THE PRESIDENT. That's ridiculous, and I'll tell you why. A man-hour of farm labor today produces 75 percent more food and fiber than it produced 20 years ago. Crop yields per acre have gone up nine times as fast in the last 20 years as they went up in the 20 years before that.

Those gains could not have been made without the wonderful research accomplishments of the Department of Agriculture and the State experiment stations.

Back in 1938 we passed legislation authorizing the four big regional research laboratories of the Department of Agriculture. But what did the Republicans do? They were so enthusiastic about research they voted against it 5 to 1.

Q. Mr. President, out here on the northern Great Plains, we're subject to extreme and uncertain weather. Is crop insurance an issue in this election ?

THE PRESIDENT. It certainly is, and the Republicans have fought it every inch of the way.

I'm very proud of the crop insurance program that has been developed under Democratic leadership since 1938. It was a brand new field--one that private enterprise couldn't handle.

But we made a start at that time. The job of providing local leadership and know-how was farmed out to the farmer-elected county and community committeemen in every corner of the land. And it's paid off.

Today, the Federal crop insurance program is still operated by those same farmer-elected committeemen. It's helping stabilize farm income in 868 counties in 43 States. But let me say that the Republicans voted 16 to 1 to kill it back in 1943. Only last year they voted 2 to 1 to cripple the crop insurance program.

But crop insurance and research and price supports aren't all that the Republicans are against. Take rural electrification, for instance. Today nearly 9 out of every 10 farms in the country have powerline electricity, compared with 1 out of 10 in 1935. This great gain has been made in spite of the Republicans in Congress, who have ganged up against REA on almost every vote.

You know, the Republican candidate for President has been claiming credit because the Both Congress provided $800 million in REA loan funds. But what he didn't tell you is, that on vote after vote the Republicans tried to beat down the appropriation. On one issue, House Republicans voted 180 to 12 against REA funds. On another, they voted 205 to 31 against REA funds. On another they voted 152 to 41 against REA funds. On still another they voted 151 to 51 against REA.

If the Republicans want to be honest, let them admit that the $800 million voted for REA in the Both Congress was voted by Democrats over Republican opposition that ran as high as 15 to 1.

Q. Mr. President, the Republican candidate has been saying that present farm programs were developed on a bipartisan basis. As a final question, what's your comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, that is a fake, too--just like all the other Republican claims are a fake. The facts are that a majority of Republicans have opposed farm legislation not only recently, but for 30 years.

Back in 1922, President Harding told farmers they had to help themselves, and the other Republicans evidently agreed because they kept blocking and vetoing the McNary-Haugen bills and voting against operation of Muscle Shoals for power development and conservation all through the 1920's.

Here's a quick rundown of the Republican record on farm legislation for the past 20 years.

In 1933, House Republicans voted against the Agricultural Adjustment Act--in a ratio of nearly 2 to 1.

That same year, they voted against the TVA--nearly 8 to 1.

In 1936, they voted against the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act-3 to 1.

In 1938, they voted against the Triple-A, which is still our basic price support legislation--5 to 1.

In 1939, they voted against parity payments--7 to 1.

In 1943, they voted to kill crop insurance-16 to 1.

That same year, they voted against expanding rural electric power facilities-3 to 1.

In 1947, they voted to kill the farm ownership program--8 to 1.

That same year they voted to kill the agricultural conservation program--12 to 1.

In 1948, they voted to cripple the grain storage program--and they succeeded until the Democratic 81st Congress rescinded this action.

In 1949, a majority of House Republicans voted against the rural telephone program-and they called it socialistic and a threat to free enterprise.

That same year, they voted against price supports on perishables--40 to 1.

In 1951, they voted to cripple crop insurance-2 to 1.

That same year they voted against expanding rural electric power--9 to 1--and they also voted to cripple the conservation program.

And only last July, a majority of House Republicans voted against the amendment assuring price supports at 90 percent of parity for 1953 and 1954.

With such a record, how in heaven's name can the Republican Party claim credit for the farm programs we have today?

It reminds me of the flea that was on the back of a donkey crossing a bridge. When they got across, the flea said to the donkey, "Boy, we sure did shake that bridge, didn't We?"

Note: The interview with the President by Jack french was recorded aboard the President's railroad car en route from Fargo to Grand Forks, N. Dak., for broadcast over radio station KNOX in Grand forks and over the Great Northern Broadcasting System.

Harry S Truman, A Recorded Interview With the President. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230588

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