John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Feed Grain Bill

May 20, 1963

This act extends the successful feed grains program for 2 more years. In 1961, feed grains constituted our most critical surplus problem. That year the carryover was over 3 billion bushels. Had no action been taken it would have approached 4 billion bushels by the end of the crop year. However, as a result of the 1961 and 1962 legislation, we will, by October of this year, have reduced stocks by 860 million bushels. Taxpayers will save over $800,000 a day. Eventual savings will total nearly $1,400 million.

Two years from now, at the end of the 1964 marketing year, the Secretary of Agriculture estimates that the entire feed grain surplus will be gone and we will have on hand only the amount of feed grain needed for national reserves. This will be an extraordinary accomplishment. It is especially encouraging that the feed grain program has received wide farmer acceptance, for without their support the feed grain situation would be even more critical today than 2 years ago.

By making this program his program, the farmer has helped raise net farm income in both 1961 and 1962 to its highest peak since 1953 and this situation is being reflected today in a banner sales year for farm equipment makers and for merchants in many rural communities. Through this program, also, we will continue to avoid feed grain supplies so large as to overexpand livestock production. This kind of progress is justification enough for continuing the feed grain legislation and I want to express my appreciation to the Members of Congress here who labored so long and so hard to make this legislation a reality.

However, there is a broader issue involved which makes the need for this program even more compelling. The feed grain program, when combined with a favorable vote in the wheat referendum tomorrow, provides the key to maintaining the family farm system of agriculture in a framework of freedom, stability, and individual initiative. A favorable vote in the wheat referendum will activate a special clause in the wheat program to permit farmers to interchange wheat acres with feed grain acres. It means that within the provisions of the two grain programs a farmer will have maximum freedom to utilize his land as he sees fit to his best advantage.

Tomorrow is the day of decision for the wheat farmers of our Nation. The issues are clear. And I think it important that the wheat farmers of this country understand them. It is our best judgment, the Federal Government's best judgment, that a negative vote will permit high production and increased wheat surpluses. After conferring with the farm organizations and economists, the National Government and the Department of Agriculture estimate that the price of wheat will decline to about $1.10 a bushel, if there is a negative vote.

I think the farmers should be very clear about this, because this involves their economic well-being. If there is a negative vote tomorrow, it is the judgment of the Department of Agriculture, seconded by many of our schools of agriculture across this country, that wheat will drop to $1.10 a bushel.

On the other hand, an affirmative vote, a vote yes, will mean reduced production but the price will remain for most of the crop at about $2 a bushel and that is the choice-and in my opinion the very clear choice-that the farmers must make tomorrow between wheat at $1.10 a bushel or wheat at $2 a bushel. This is a decision that the wheat farmers themselves must make. The choice now rests in their hands, because the Congress has done its job in presenting the very clear alternatives to the farmers. And on their decision tomorrow will rest the actions for the next months.

I am hopeful that the farmers will vote yes, in their own interests. And I want to express appreciation again to the Members of the Congress who have labored so long for the last 2 years trying to provide legislation which will benefit the farmers and which will also be responsible to the taxpayers of this country.

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. in the Fish Room at the White House. The Feed Grain Act of 1963 is Public Law 88-26 (77 Stat. 44).

For the President's statement on the results of the wheat referendum, see Item 201.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Upon Signing the Feed Grain Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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