John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks by Telephone to a Democratic Rally at St. Cloud, Minnesota

October 07, 1962

Fellow Democrats:

I want to express a very warm welcome to you all and to tell you how much I regret that it's not possible for us to be with you this morning, with Senator Humphrey, with all the other Democrats who have given leadership to this State and country. I'm particularly sorry because your district has been represented with great distinction by Congressman Fred Marshall. He was a colleague of mine a decade ago in the House of Representatives, and I have personal knowledge of how vigorously and long he has dedicated himself to the welfare of your district and your State, and our country.

I came to Minnesota this weekend became I believe the election of 1962, the election of Members of the House of Representatives, the election of a Democratic Governor, is vitally important to the programs which I believe this country needs if it's going to maintain its strength at home, which is the basis of its strength abroad. This country can only be a leader in the world, which it must be, if the forces of freedom are to be sustained over the next decade. This country can only be a leader abroad if it is strong at home. Chairman Khrushchev once said that the hinge of history would begin to move, worldwide, in the direction of the Communists when the Soviet Union was able to surpass the United States as a major industrial power. He has predicted again and again that this passage will take place in this century, so that we concern ourselves with the forward movement of our country here in the United States, not only because this represents the means by which we can provide a better life for our people, greater security, and greater opportunity, but also because this great industrial strength and productivity at home also represents a standard of measurement for the people of the world as to which system offers the better hope. We believe our system does, and it's up to us to make our system work, to provide an opportunity for our young people, to make sure that those with talent have an opportunity to go to college, to make sure that those who seek work can find it, to make sure that those who work on our farms have an adequate income, to make sure that those of us who are older, our older citizens, can retire with dignity.

A matter of particular concern to this country must be the welfare of those who work on our farms. This is the most extraordinary miracle, this tremendous increase of our productivity since the end of World War II. It has been the most disastrous failure of the Communist system. Their effort to equal our productivity by a system of forced labor on their farms stands in very shining contrast to the tremendous increases in productivity which we have seen in the last years. The difficulty, of course, is that we have increased our productivity nearly twice as fast as we've increased our population and, therefore, our farm income has declined, our surpluses have gone up, and this has represented one of the great challenges to the previous administration, a challenge which I think was unsuccessfully met by Ezra Taft Benson, and a challenge which I think we are successfully meeting, even though we still face serious problems under the leadership of your former Governor, Orville Freeman.

I think that you know very clearly that on January 20th of last year that there was no domestic challenge that we faced that was more serious than the challenge of American agriculture. Farm income was depressed, surpluses were piling up, too little food was going abroad, too many people, nearly six or seven million people, who were chronically unemployed lacked a proper diet. The amount of money that the taxpayers had to put into the program was increasing, and the Members of the Congress could not agree on any course to follow.

In 1960 I promised if elected to give the farm problem top priority in the opening weeks of my administration. And on January 21st, the first day in office, the first Executive order that I signed was to increase the quantity and the quality of foods distributed to needy families.

In 1961 the first major piece of legislation I signed was the emergency feed grain program which reduced surpluses by nearly 400 million bushels, while boosting farm income. The second pledge that I made in 1960 was to raise farm income immediately. Net farm income last year in the United States rose by more than $1 billion, to an 8-year high, and this gain will be maintained in 1962 and in the future. This was an increase of 10 percent for the Nation, and a 15 percent average here in Minnesota.

Third, I promised to bring supply into balance with total demand. Now for the first time the end of surpluses in wheat and feed grains is clearly in sight. By 1965, our supply of both of these crops should be about equal to the amount we need to keep on hand for stabilization and security. And the annual billion dollar cost of carrying farm surpluses will have been cut in half.

And, fourth, I promised in the 1960 campaign to make the fullest use of our agricultural abundance. In the last 20 months we have expanded school lunch programs to feed nearly one and a half million more children than ever in the past. We have expanded special milk programs to serve 4,000 more schools and institutions. We have launched a food stamp program and improved the quantity and the quality of food distributed to the needy. And through a full scale, full-time food for peace program we have shipped more food to hungry people abroad in the last 20 months than was shipped in the 10 years of the World War I relief operations.

We have promised to expand loans to farm families and they have been more than doubled. We promised to expand Federal crop insurance, and we have added three new crops and a hundred new countries. We promised tax laws our farm cooperatives could accept, and we've kept that promise. We have promised to expand the REA and it has been expanded. We promised to step up small watershed projects, and they have been stepped up 75 percent. We promised to increase funds for forest research, and they have been nearly doubled. And so I repeat, the Democratic Party has been true to the farmer and true to its word.

There is, however, much more to be done, and this is particularly true to help the hard-hit dairy farmers. The fact of the matter is that they have experienced a more difficult time than the farmers in any other commodity. When I came into office we increased the support price for dairy products, and the income of our dairy farmers expanded. Surpluses have been piling up in recent months, and I asked the Congress of the United States to extend the period of higher support prices so that we could write a new and more effective dairy program.

Every Republican member of the House agricultural committee opposed this effort to assist our dairy farmers, and they were joined by a few Democratic Congressmen from nondairy areas who, together, prevented us from meeting our responsibilities to this most important agricultural group upon whom we all depend.

That's why this election is important. We want to go forward. There is no problem more complicated and more important than that of solving the tremendous problem of distributing our food production in an equitable way, with reasonable prices, and insuring our farmers of a better life.

We have shown in the last 18 to 19 months that this can be done. We've helped many areas of our country. But we still have major responsibilities and problems to meet, particularly in the area of dairying.

And that's why I think it vitally important that this district send a worthy successor to Fred Marshall, who can speak for the farmers and the city and the town people of this District and this country.

I know Alec Olson, and I know that he will serve this district with distinction. I hope you will support him. And send to the House of Representatives a man who will labor not only for his district and State, but also for the country. Alec Olson in the 6th District, Harding Noblitt in the 7th District, can join John Blatnik and all the others who have given leadership to this State and the United States in very difficult and important days.

So I want to express my very warm greeting to all of you. I am here with Senator McCarthy. We are going back to Washington. We send very warm greetings to the Majority Whip, Hubert Humphrey; to your candidate for Governor who can make a great Governor and work in harmony with us for the best interests of Minnesota and the best interests of our country, for upon the strength of our country depends the strength of freedom.

Thank you and goodbye.

Note: The President spoke by telephone from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. His trip to St. Cloud was canceled because of inclement weather.

In his remarks the President referred to U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey and U.S. Representative Fred Marshall of Minnesota; Alec G. Olson and Harding Noblitt, Democratic candidates for U.S. Representative for the Sixth and Seventh Districts, respectively, of Minnesota; and to U.S. Representative John A. Blatnik and U.S. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota. He also referred to the Democratic candidate for Governor of Minnesota, Lieutenant Governor Karl F. Rolvaag.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks by Telephone to a Democratic Rally at St. Cloud, Minnesota Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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