Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Earl L. Butz as Secretary of Agriculture.

December 02, 1971

Ladies and gentlemen of the Cabinet and of the Congress:

As you know, we are gathered here today for the swearing in of our new Secretary of Agriculture. We will have the swearing-in ceremony first, and then I would like to make a brief remark of welcome to our new member of the Cabinet, and then he will have the opportunity to say a word, too, in response to what I say. Mr. Justice Blackmun will administer the oath.

[At this point, the oath of office was administered by Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the Supreme Court. The President then resumed speaking.]

We are going to have Senator Aiken stand here by us because he was one of those that led the fight in the Senate. I was reminded just before coming into this room that I announced the nomination of the new Secretary of Agriculture on Armistice Day. He has been wondering what became of the truce.

I can only say, however, that a man who goes before the Senate, who has a number of Senators who are strongly for him, and others who with conviction are against him, is a man who after surviving that ordeal comes out stronger and better than ever.

I think Winston Churchill, in writing about some of his early war years, once said that there is nothing so exhilarating in life as to be shot at without result. And you seem to have survived it well.

I mentioned at the time that I sent the nomination to the Senate, that I had chosen Earl Butz because of his qualifications in the field of agriculture over 40 years. I believe he is as well qualified for this position as any man who has ever held it.

But there is another reason that I selected him for this post. He is an activist; he is an independent thinker. He is a man who will come into this office-and the door of this office will always be open to him to speak his mind--and say what he thinks needs to be done for the farmers of this country and for American agriculture. As a matter of fact, I think he has something that he is going to be saying tomorrow on some subjects, and he will be listened to.

I believe that he will serve not only agriculture well, but that he will serve America well.

For those who are here from the Senate, and who did participate in the debate, let me say that we realize that the advice and consent of the Senate serves a very useful purpose because it really proves what a man has. A man like Earl Butz, who could take the shots that he has and then come out stronger than ever, will be a better Secretary of Agriculture for the fight he has been through. I think he is going to do a great job.

Now, as the dean of agriculture in the Senate and the country, George, would you say a word for the new Secretary. Do you think I made a good choice?

SENATOR AIKEN. I think you made a good choice and I think that the Senate decided rightly. The one thing that is bothering me standing here in front of all the cameras, is the Craneton amendment to the wage-hour law, which has exempted the Eastman Kodak and other cameramen. [Laughter]

No, I think that Earl is going to do all right, and I was worried over the Department if you didn't get a Secretary who could help you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. And now I would like to ask the senior member of the Cabinet, the Secretary of State, if you would say a word, too, for your new colleague.


SECRETARY ROGERS. I am very pleased, of course, to welcome the new Secretary of Agriculture. I had a very close relationship with the last one.1

SECRETAY BUTZ. I have no daughters.

1 Secretary Rogers' son, Douglas, was married to former Secretary of Agriculture Hardin's daughter, Nancy, on January 31, 1970.

SECRETARY ROGERS. Well, it is good I have no sons left.

THE PRESIDENT. What about grandchildren?

SECRETARY ROGERS. But I know that we all share the expressions which the President has just given, and those of us who had the privilege of serving President Eisenhower and working with you, subscribe very heartily to the things the President has just said.

There is no doubt in our minds that you will do an outstanding job, and on behalf of all the members of the Cabinet, let me say to you and Mrs. Butz how delighted we are that you are with us.

SECRETARY Buzz. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. And now, Mr. Secretary, you are recognized.

SECRETARY Buzz. Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, and Mrs. Butz who got here just about 5 minutes before we came in the room, on a late flight from Lafayette. I phoned her at 11 :00 in Lafayette; she lives 65 miles from the airport at Indianapolis.

THE PRESIDENT. But the vote wasn't until 1:00. Were you that confident? [Laughter] She knew more than I did. [Laughter]

SECRETARY BUTZ. I said a car will be there at 12: 00 to pick you up to take you to Indianapolis. She said, "What day?" I said, "Today."

It is a real pleasure being here, Mr. President. Three weeks ago on November 11, when you said this was the toughest job in Washington, I didn't realize what a master of understatement you were.

The experience I have had in the last 2 weeks leads me to believe that the United States Senate took you too seriously on this 5 percent personnel reduction. They were about to abolish the position of Secretary of Agriculture, I think.

But it is a real challenge being a member of your team and knowing, as I do, your deep concern for the welfare of our farmers and that, as you said, something will be done immediately.

Immediately is pretty fast, you know. But we are going to go to work promptly on raising farm income, on getting prices up to a satisfactory level. As I said when you announced the change in the Secretaries of Agriculture, the price of corn is too low, and that kind of statement doesn't leave much room for interpretation.

THE PRESIDENT. You are going to do something about it tomorrow? [Laughter]

SECRETARY BUTZ. Mr. President, the answer is yes, since you put it that way. But we have a tremendous resource in the Department of Agriculture. We have a tremendous resource in American agriculture, as you are aware.

Just yesterday you met with one of the great resources we have in American agriculture, and that is our young men and young women who man the farms and farm homes in rural communities of America. I am delighted that you met with them.

Our agriculture is the real basis of affluence in America. The first law of life is food. We produce our food in this country with only 5 percent of our working population on the farms of America. That releases 95 percent to make everything else that makes life so wonderful in America. And we give our food to the American consumer for only 16½ percent of his disposable income.

No place else on the earth do people get their food in such abundance, such high quality, and at such low prices as in America. It is so low, Mr. President, that our farmers don't get paid enough for it.

I am going to be coming to you and George Shultz from time to time, and perhaps asking for more than you can give us, but I am going to ask for it and I am going to press vigorously for it.

You said you wanted an aggressive, articulate spokesman for agriculture in the White House, and Mr. President, you have got him.

To me it is great to know I have some friends in this town. It may be more vigorous than you want, but I want to assure you and to assure everybody in the United States that we are going to do our level best to achieve your stated goal that no American ever goes to bed in this country hungry or malnourished.

Our agriculture is productive enough and our country is affluent enough that that is a legitimate goal, and I think for the first time in history we can achieve a situation in which nobody does go to bed hungry or malnourished.

So we want to use our agricultural plant to produce a world where people eat well and feel well and live well so that we can have a generation of peace.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT. I will just add--he needs to be not only articulate, as he is, as he has just demonstrated, and tenacious, as he obviously will be, but he also has to be a magician.

I just met with a group of farm editors out in Chicago yesterday, and I was trying to think of the right thing to say, and I said, "I think corn prices are too low." Then I shook hands with all the farm editors that came through. One fellow came through and he had his tag on--he was a hog producer. He said, "I like low corn prices."

So if you raise the price of corn, be sure that you don't do it at the expense of the hog producers.

SECRETARY BUTZ. Well, now, Mr. President, there are some things----[laughter]


Note: The exchange of remarks began at 5:05 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Swearing In of Earl L. Butz as Secretary of Agriculture. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives