John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Harrisburg, IL

October 03, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Otto Kerner, who is going to be the next Governor of the State of Illinois [applause] and Senator Douglas, who I think has made a singular contribution, as senior Senator from Illinois, to the welfare of this State and also to the welfare of the United States. Senator Douglas [applause] and your own Congressman who speaks for this district and so speaks for the country, Kenny Gray [applause] and Paul Powell, who has taken me by the hand, and has taken me along the same road that Harry Truman took in 1948 when he carried this State and carried the country [applause] and ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Nixon the other night in my own town of Boston, speaking to his party, said I was another Truman. I regard it as a compliment. [Applause.] And I said he was another Dewey, which he does not regard as a compliment.[Applause.]

This district, which is built on the land and which has been nourished by the land, personifies the kind of problems which I think the United States is going to face in the 1960's. This district has depended in the main for its resources, its growth, its wealth, upon the minerals underground and upon the food that is grown on the ground. And those are those industries that have faced serious problems in the 1960's. I can imagine nothing that represents a greater opportunity than $9 billion worth of surplus food stored away in barns and in sheds and in mills across the United States, at a time when over 4 million of our people look to the Government for surplus food to sustain them, and when hundreds of millions look to us around the world.

This is bread I would cast upon the water. I am confident it would come back to us many times over. Mr. Benson is an honest man, but he has not been a successful Secretary of Agriculture. I could not disagree more with the agricultural policy pursued by this administration, which has got for its basis, a steady drop of support prices as a method of eliminating overproduction. Mr. Nixon proposed his plan a week ago and he put in the same basic feature, which is that the support price shall be tied to the average of the market price for the preceding 3 years, and as the market price goes down, so does the support price.

Corn was selling for nearly $1.50 under the support price in 1952. In Minnesota, on Friday, in Sanborn, it sold for 85 cents. If this is the market price this year, next year under Nixon's program, the support prices will be tied to 85 cents, and as the market price drops, the support price will drop, until finally there won't be as many farmers in the United States in 1961, 1962, and 1963.

My own judgment is for our agricultural program that we should tie support price to parity price. Then the support price is fixed. But along with that we should have effective controls on production. We are going to have corn coming out of our ears, and wheat. We are going to have other crops which are being grown in surplus greater than we can consume, and 5 percent surplus breaks the price 15 or 20 percent.

The Secretary of Agriculture and the administration should make a determination as to how much we can usefully consume of wheat, livestock, other commodities, and then control production with the support of the farmers so that there is a balance between supply and demand, with a high support price for that crop which is grown. I put much greater confidence in that than in a support price which is steadily going down. That is the Democratic program. I feel we can do better. This program of this administration has dropped agricultural prices in this State over 20 percent in the last 8 years, and we are going down, down, down, step by step. That may have been all right in those times when we had full employment. Farmers could farm and work in the cities and towns, but this year we have the highest unemployment that we have had in any months of August and September, the three Augusts and Septembers preceding the recession of 1949, 1954, and 1958, and this district knows this problem well, because this district has lost 60,000 people in the last 10 years.

The failure of this administration to support the area redevelopment bill which has passed the U.S. Senate three times, introduced in the Senate by Senator Douglas, supported strongly by your Congressman, I think has made it more difficult for this district and districts in my own State of Massachusetts and in West Virginia and in Pennsylvania and in Kentucky, to lift themselves off the ground. I can assure you that if I am successful, in this campaign, that we will pass that bill in the House and the Senate and I will sign it, and if I am not successful in this campaign and I continue in the Senate, we will try to pass it again in the Senate and again in the House, and we hope that the next President will sign it. [Applause.]

Our problems are problems which affect the growth of our economy. In the next 10 years we are going to have to find 25,000 new jobs a week for the next 10 years in order to provide full employment, in order to get jobs for your sons and daughters in the next 10 years. We are going to have to make our economy grow. Last week, the steel mills of this country were employing 50 percent of capacity, and if you don't use steel, you don't use coal, and when you don't use coal and steel, you don't make autos, and when you don't make autos and you don't make coal and steel, sooner or later the economy of our country begins to slow down. And that is at a time when the United States has great responsibilities to meet at home and abroad. If we can maintain full employment, if we can make our economy move ahead, if we can bring a balance between supply and demand in the field of agriculture, if we can provide effective education for our children, if we can put medical care for the aged under social security, which will equalize the burden upon us all, then I think we will have met some of the problems that this country faces in the 1960's, because in building a stronger society here, we help build a strong society around the world.

The United States is a great defender of freedom. If we are moving a head, if we are building our strength here, then we help the cause of freedom. If we stand still, if we fail to meet our problems, then we damage not only ourselves, but the cause of freedom around the globe.

I have served this country for 18 years, 14 years in the Congress of the United States, and I have traveled in every State in recent months. I have the greatest possible confidence in this country. But this is a great country that I believe must be greater, and it is a powerful country that must be more powerful. I approach the 1960's with the greatest possible confidence that the United States will meet its obligations both at home and abroad. I come here today and ask your support, not saying that if I am elected life will be easy, but I can assure you that if I am elected and if the Democrats control the House and the Senate, men like Paul Douglas and your own Congressman, and Governor Kerner here in the State of Illinois, we will try to put before this country its unfinished business, we will try to provide leadership, and this country will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Harrisburg, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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