Richard Nixon photo

Speech of Vice President Nixon, 21st Annual Plowing Contest, Guthrie Center, IA

September 16, 1960

ANNOUNCER. The next President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Nixon. [Applause.]

Vice President NIXON. Hi. [Applause.] Thank you. Thank you very much.

Incidentally, to have the song "California, Here I Come" played, is very appropriate in Iowa, because it is often said that most Californians were Iowans who came to California. So we thank you for that side, for welcoming us as you have so very generously.

May I say, too, that it is indeed a very great privilege today for me to join with you at Guthrie Center in this event.

And before I speak on the subject, which I know is of very great interest to you, I would like to pay my respects to those on the platform with me.

As I see them behind me - our candidate for Governor, Norm Erbe, our candidate for the Senate, Jack Miller, your Congressman, Ben Jensen, all of our fine candidates for the Senate and for the State legislature - I am very proud of our Republican candidates here in the State of Iowa, and I suggest we give them all the hand they deserve for the service they have rendered and what they will render for the United States and for Iowa. [Applause.]

My wife, Pat, and I have had a very, very wonderful day today. We started early this morning in Omaha, Nebr., and we have traveled by automobile all the way to Guthrie Center. We have driven through some of the most beautiful country in all the world, and certainly the most beautiful country in America.

We also have had the opportunity to stop at several towns and cities along the way to speak in the great tradition in the town square. The school students have been out, with their American flags and their signs, indicating their preferences for the various contests for the governorship, the senatorship, and the Presidency, and we have had a chance to meet and greet literally hundreds and hundreds of citizens of this State on this trip. And it is such a trip as this that makes us realize a number of things. And one of them is this:

We hear these days a lot of talk about what is wrong with the United States, about our military strength falling off, about our economic strength declining, about the fact that our prestige is supposed to be falling in various parts of the world. And there is an answer to it, to those who have lost faith in America and in our productivity, and mainly to those who have lost faith in the American individual.

I say: Travel through this country, and you will realize what a great and a good land it is. [Applause.]

There were so many incidents that will stay in our memory. A little 8-year-old girl in the lobby of the hotel very early this morning in Omaha, who was there to greet us with a group of her friends, singing songs and waving placards. When I shook her hand, she said, "I hope you make President, Mr. Nixon." And then she went on to say: "You know what I do? Every time I go under a bridge, I make a wish for you that you will become President of the United States."

I just hope there are lots of bridges in Iowa. That is all I can say. [Applause.]

Then there was another incident, another scheduled stop, one of the reasons we were a little later arriving here than we expected to be. There was a group of students along the side of the road and it was the school of the deaf, which I am sure some of you have passed on your way into Omaha. And so we stopped the car, and we greeted them, and one of the teachers translated what we had to say to those who could not read lips, by Sign language; and certainly, of all the events that will occur in these long 2 months ahead, that one will remain closest to our hearts, because we realized then how fortunate those of us who have sometimes a banged-up knee or a sore throat, and the like, really are, when we see people that are having real troubles and how they can see them through with wonderful smiles on their faces. So that event will stay with us, too, and we thank Iowa for making that possible.

But most of all, we will remember, in addition to these remembrances, and others that I have mentioned, the tremendous richness that we have seen in this land of yours and of ours, and in its people.

And so today I want to talk about that wealth, how we can preserve it, how we can make it even better and stronger, not only for America, but for those of you, of our farming community, who have made it possible.

Now, as I stand here before you in a political year, it is quite obvious that I am interested in your support. And let's have no illusions about that, right at the outset.

I want to tell you, at the beginning, that I do not offer any easy solutions to the problems that you have, that we have, as a nation. I could make all sorts of promises to you today. I could tell you that this program or that one, or this panacea or that one, was going to solve instantly the so-called farm problem that we have, so that things would be a lot better and nobody would have to pay anything for them.

But today I want to talk to you as one who does not presume to be an expert about this subject, but one who believes it is his responsibility to learn about every subject of importance in which the American people are concerned and who has studied the farm problem just as hard as I can, over the last few months, particularly.

I want to speak to you on that problem. Everything that I say will be the result of what I have learned by my own studies. Every word that I read will be words that I have written, and that have not been written for me. And everything that I promise will be things that I think will work and things that I intend to carry out if I am given the opportunity.

They may not be all the things that some of you may want to hear, but they will be proposals that in my opinion will help, and proposals that will work. And I present them to you today in that spirit, with the hope that you will accept them in that spirit as well.

And now, if I might begin, I think very appropriately, by pointing out that we, who are studying in this field of our farm problems, first have got to get rid of some misconceptions, rather broadly held about agriculture in the United States, and about our farmers and our farm families.

And the first one is this: Haven't you often read or heard, and hasn't it made you boil up inside to read and hear, that the cause of the farm problem in the United States, the reason we have all these troubles, are the farmers. The farmers are to blame.

And so it is well to lay that one to rest right at the outset. The farmers, of course, are not to blame for the so-called farm problem. The farmers have been responsible for becoming the most productive agricultural producers in the world today. And the farmers have been producing as much as they have not only because of a tremendously exciting technological revolution in agriculture, which enables you to produce far more to the acre than you previously could, but you have also been doing all this increase in production because the Government has urged you to do it.

In other words, the farm problem is a product more of politics than of productivity. It is a problem of keeping farm programs on a war footing while the Nation, fortunately, has kept the peace.

What the farmer has done is just exactly what he has been encouraged by his Government to do, during the war and since the war. And so the blame, the primary blame, for the so-called farm problem rests not on the farmers but on those who have been responsible for writing the laws under which the farmers have operated.

Let's go to a second misconception.

Haven't you read, and heard at times this statement: "You know, these farmers, they live pretty good and they live off the public Treasury at the expense of other Americans. And because the farmers live so well, the public is paying higher taxes and paying more for food in the grocery store."

Now, here, again, what we have to realize is that while our farm programs, for reasons that we are all aware, are costly and unrealistic, the costs that most people chalk up against the farmer are puffed up all out of shape. And consequently they are misleading. Why?

Because those costs include such things as food grading, which is in the interest of the public, scientific research in education, school lunches, great quantities of food for needy nations. All of these costs are included as a part of our farm program.

Most of the increase in today's grocery bill reflects not payments to farmers, but modern refinements in processing, and, of course, inflation of costs all along the line.

The truth is, as every farmer knows, and as all other Americans need to understand, that what the farmer gets for what he produces is but a fraction of what the housewife has to pay at the grocery.

And so the conclusion here is that the public has a right to worry over taxes and food costs, but it is wrong to charge all these costs against the farmers.

Now to a third misconception.

This one I would imagine would be especially insulting to farmers. And it says that because of mechanization and the fact that so many people have left the farms, farmers aren't particularly important any more because there aren't too many of them, and that therefore politically the people and those running for public office shouldn't worry about them too much.

Well, in the first place, of course, the assumption is wrong. We must recognize that today farming is still our biggest single industry, and more important, it is a major customer of all other nations.

But clearly, apart from that, looking at the number of farmers that we have in comparison with other segments of the economy, may there never come a time in this country when we ignore one group, or any other group, of Americans, no matter how small it is, who are making a contribution to America's productivity. And that certainly is something we can all agree on as Americans today. [Applause.]

In other words, let's recognize once and for all what has often been said, that if our Nation is to be prosperous, our farmers must be prosperous.

And now, there is another misconception, that I will touch on just briefly. That is the impression that the farmer, after all, has been feathering his nest for a long time, and that since he has, he is doing so well with those fancy cars and all that equipment and that farm income that he should just grin and bear the situation until we get him over this presently difficult period.

Well, the bald fact, of course, is, as you know, that whatever farmers may be doing today - and some do better than others - the fact is, and this is the problem that we all must rectify, that the farmer has not had his equal share in America's increasing prosperity.

Let's take our wage earners in America. A 15-percent increase in the last seven and a half years in real take-home pay for the wage earners of America. The farmers have barely held their own, and in some areas have slipped off.

Now when prosperity increases for the country generally, it is only right that it be shared by everybody. And that is why the farmer has a right to say that he should have different treatment than he gets today, because today, compared with others in the economy, he is getting in effect the short end of the stick.

So simple justice, not to say the national interest, demands that we develop a program that will assure a square deal, a square return, for the farmers of America, as well as all of us.

And now, if I could come to what to me, however, is the worst misconception of all about the farm program: What I am going to say now is going to surprise a lot of people. It may have occurred to you. It may not have occurred to a great many who have heard this on television and radio.

And that misconception is that the farm problem is the most terrible problem we could possibly imagine; that it is a hopeless, costly, unavoidable mess; the farmers don't do well; the people are paying too much for what they get; and over all, there just isn't any solution to it in sight.

Well, let's look at it as it really is. We have been looking at the farm problem too negatively over these past few years. We have been seeing everything that is wrong about this problem, and we have been overlooking the many things that are right about it.

And I want to tell you what my attitude is. I don't think there is any more single exciting challenge that will confront the next President of the United States than that of making a national asset, rather than a national liability, out of our Nation's ability to produce more food and fiber than any other people on the face of the globe today. This is what we must do. [Applause.]

I know many in this audience have traveled abroad. Probably not many of you have been to Asia, to Africa, to the Near East, to those areas of the country in which the standards of living, the per capita income, runs about one-twentieth of what it is in the poorest State of the United States.

But when you visit these countries, and when you see real hunger, when you see bare subsistence, when you see people scratching out of the land just enough to feed themselves and not enough to feed those in the rest of the country, you realize how fortunate we are to be the best fed, best clothed people in the world today. And we owe that to our farmers. And all the people of America thank the farmers for making that possible. [Applause.]

And then there is another aspect of this. We have got to look at this not as a continuing calamity, but we have got to look at it as something we can make really constructive steps in solving; because look at the advantage our tremendous productivity on the farm gives us in the global struggle in which we are engaged.

We have heard a great deal in the past few weeks, and we are going to hear a great deal more, about the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. And we should hear about it, because Mr. Khrushchev intends to catch us. He intends to pass us economically.

When I was in the Soviet Union, I remember when we met there in that famous kitchen in Moscow, he said to me, "Mr. Vice President, I agree you are ahead of us now. But," he said, "our system is better than yours. We are moving faster than you are. And we are going to catch you pretty soon, and we are going to pass you by. And as we pass you by, we are going to wave, 'goodby.' Come along and follow us. Do as we do, and you, too, can have the good things of life that we are enjoying."

It sounds rather presumptuous, doesn't it? But he means it. He is determined.

But he isn't going to succeed. And I will tell you why he isn't going to succeed.

One, because his system is not right, and ours is. And two, because the United States is well ahead of him economically at the present time. And three, one of the reasons we are well ahead of him is that we have a gap which the farmers of America have produced, which he can't possibly overcome.

You know what it is?

There are approximately 7 million, at the outside, farmers and farmworkers in America today. They produce as much food and fiber, and of better quality than 50 million farmers and farmworkers produce in the Soviet Union.

There is the greatest advantage we have, economically. And that is why when Mr. Khrushchev came to the United States, this impressed him as much as anything else.

Why does this happen? Because here, although we have some controls on our farm economy, production is the result of giving men freedom, rather than giving them direction and control from the state. The people and the farmers of America are freemen, rather than peasant slaves.

And may any farm program that we develop be in the direction of freedom and not in the direction of slavery and Government direction from Washington, D.C. [Applause.]

And I can only say that those who think that Mr. Khrushchev is right, that he is going to catch us economically, ought to look over this farm countryside, as I have and as he did. And they ought to go to the Soviet Union and look it over, as I did with my wife, Pat. That will be the best cure for cold war nerves that I know of.

And it certainly gave Mr. Khrushchev a case of nerves while he was here; because, as I indicated, when he came back to Washington, this is the thing that tremendously impressed him.

And I imagine that one of the reasons that he deliberately didn't want President Eisenhower to come to the Soviet Union was his reluctance to let him see how far they actually are behind him today.

Well, now, having cleared up these misconceptions, let's go now to what we do about our farm program.

First, we have got to have some major guidelines.

One is: We must safeguard and preserve the family farm which is the very heart of our free agricultural system.

And second, in developing our programs - and this I emphasize above everything else - we must not be rigid. We can't be inflexible. We have got to try some new approaches. We can't just dig in the trenches we have been in for the past 7 years and say, "Only this is right," with the other side saying, "Only this is right," and then keep fastened on the farmer something that is wrong. We need a new approach and it is to that point that I particularly talk this week in Iowa and next week in North and South Dakota when I speak there.

Now having said that the approach should not be inflexible: Let us recognize, too that the farm problem just isn't one problem. It never has been. It is a number of commodities and a number of problems, and you need a different program and a different tool to deal with each one.

What does our opposition offer? I will touch only briefly on that, because that is their privilege and responsibility to say. But as I read it, they offer only two things; and that is a return to discredited old programs which never have worked, plus new plans like the Brannan farm program, which never did fool the farmers, and which, therefore, they rejected.

In essence, as I read what they have said to date - and I hope they change, because I would like to see both of our parties not use this as a political issue but try to find a common ground in which to find a solution. But up to this point, what our opponents seem to say is that they should have programs that would lead to a farm economy completely planned and managed, not by the farmer, but by the Government.

And I submit to you today that these ideas would not end our farm problems. They would simply fasten them on our country forever.

And I say we can't allow ourselves to think in these defeatist terms. So let me suggest some basic thoughts that point the way to constructive action.

First, because the Government, as I indicated a few moments ago, primarily got the farmer into the farm problem, the Government must bear the cost of getting him out.

Second, I consider it a Government obligation to help the farmer protect himself against the natural and economic problems that uniquely and oftentimes disastrously affect his livelihood.

Third, farmers should have more to say about the kind of programs best suited to their way of life.

We need greater farmer participation in the formulation of the programs of Government. The closer we can get the programs to the farmers in control and the further away from Washington in control, the better for the farmers and the better for the Nation. This certainly is my conviction. [Applause.]

Fourth, the farmers need programs that will strengthen, not erode away their freedom. We need programs which will hasten the day when Federal bureaucrats in Washington, no matter how intentioned, will not be telling farmers how much to plant, how many acres to sow, how much to sell, and what their prices have to be.

And fifth, we must and we can put our surpluses more constructively to work with the good both of American farmers and of all humanity in mind. More about that later.

Sixth, once we do this, production restraints can be eased and made rational and bearable.

And, seventh, programs are needed that will raise family farm incomes as surpluses are consumed. We cannot tolerate programs that would cut production by bankrupting the farmer.

And, finally, we must carefully consider the whole complex price-support program, and to that subject I shall return in my second farm speech in Sioux Falls, S. Dak., next week.

Now, looking at these points, let me say, as far as the first one is concerned, this is where we should begin. The No. 1 job is to work down the price-depressing surpluses which today are costing all Americans a thousand dollars every minute just to handle and store.

Now there are two major parts to this task. First, we have got to dispose of the surpluses we already have. And, second, we have got to keep down the accumulation of surpluses on the other end of the pipeline.

Now, it is the first part, "How do we dispose of the surpluses that we already have," that I particularly want to devote my remarks at this point.

My answer here is what I call "Operation Consume." What does it do? It isolates the surplus stocks from the commercial markets as completely, effectively, and quickly as we can. It uses the surpluses for constructive works. It aims at keeping farmers from being made prisoners of their own efficiency. It is a four-point program.

I think you will be interested in hearing it.

Point 1. A sharp intensification of the food-for-peace program, including new and more energetic efforts among surplus-producing nations to assist the hungry people in less favored areas of the world through the United Nations, a program that I first announced in my speech at Minot, N. Dak.

This is an effort at once practical and humanitarian. In its support, we will continue to sell our surplus products abroad under Public Law 480.

Moreover, we should accelerate our efforts in underdeveloped nations to acquaint millions of people with our multitude of farm products and their many uses. Thereby we stimulate commercial markets for our farm people, as the 480 program has done so well.

Point - that is point 1. Intensify the disposal of surplus foods abroad.

Point 2. Create at home in America a strategic food reserve.

Now, these critical reserves of food would be stored at strategic locations throughout the Nation. They must be stored in forms in which they can best be preserved for long periods against the contingency of a grave national emergency, such as sudden international requirements or an enemy attack.

In the kind of a world in which we live today, we simply can't risk a shortage of food. In these times, we must keep on hand large enough stocks to feed our people should our normal sources of food be destroyed.

Our present wheat surplus, for example, is even now a great protection for America, because in an emergency wheat can be eaten even in its natural state.

But even better - and here is an area where I think we should engage in a research program - wheat can be prepared in a way that can protect it against contamination, preserve it for long periods, and yet keep it immediately available for human consumption.

We need to move a substantial part, then, of our surpluses into storage, properly dispersed, to speed their availability in time of crisis. And we must replace them periodically with fresh supplies.

The third point: "Operation Consume" will effect payments in kind from existing surpluses as part of a temporary land conservation and retirement program, of which we need to obtain better balance in today's agriculture.

Of course, barter payments of this kind have to be so administered as not to disturb farm prices, while at the same time reducing the output of additional surpluses.

In other words, under this program - which Congressman Hoeven, the man that I hope will be the next chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives, with your help, by electing more Republican Congressmen - this program, which has been sponsored by him, will use the surplus to use up the surplus.

Now I come to a fourth point. This is a new one. It is one that I am sure will be of great interest to you.

As part of "Operation Consume," I propose an urgent exploration of the conversion of grain to protein foods, for distribution at home and abroad. I believe this approach has real possibilities. We will put forth every effort to find ways whereby excess grain is converted into low-cost bulk canned meat, powdered milk, and eggs, meanwhile giving livestock, dairy, and poultry producers throughout the country additional income.

This new program can be worked out and become a significant and valuable addition to our food-for-peace efforts and to our school lunch and relief distribution programs.

Here, again, there must, of course, be safeguards against disruption of normal commercial marketing channels at home and abroad, as well as prudent cost controls.

There are the four points, then - four points which are aimed at what?

And here is the objective. I believe that our trouble with this surplus problem in the past has been that our programs have been too timid and too little. I suggest that what we must do is to set an objective, a target date - a target date of 4 years, in which we will use the tools that I have suggested here to reduce the surplus to manageable proportions.

This way, we get the surplus off the farmers' back and off the Nation's back, as well.

Of course, it will be necessary, as you will see, to appropriate money for these programs. But in evaluating their costs, we must take into account the present tremendous outlays that we will thereby be getting rid of as we reduce the surpluses.

In other words, we must and should be willing to pay more now, in order to take a bigger bite out of the surplus and to reach our target date; recognizing that the costs, overall, will be less in the long run.

And so there it is - "Operation Consume." A concerted effort directed to the critical surplus program.

Now, at South Dakota next week I shall talk about "Operation Safeguard," a program to deal with the other major phase of our problem, that of avoiding the building up of new unmanageable surpluses.

Together, "Operation Consume" on the one side, "Operation Safeguard" on the other side, I am convinced will strengthen our agriculture; it will strengthen farm income; and it will conserve this tremendous asset that we have the productivity of America's farmers, which makes us not only the best clothed, best fed people in the world, but which gives us a tremendous advantage in the struggle that is going on in the world today between the forces of freedom and the forces of communism.

And now, my friends, if I could bring my remarks to a close by relating all that I have said again to the issue that I have already touched upon, at least by implication, several times.

Whenever I talk to an audience like this, I am often asked, "Well, what happens?" Does a candidate for the Presidency go around the country and tell the farmers what they want to hear and then tell the labor people what they want to hear and then tell the business people what they want to hear, tell the East and the North and the South what they want to hear?

And the answer is, to be perfectly honest: Of course, we always should talk about subjects primarily of interest to the particular area and the particular group to whom we may be speaking.

But let me say one thing, right here. Whether it is a labor group or a farm group or a business group or any other kind of a group in America, I think it is the responsibility of one running for the Presidency of the United States, not to say just what that group may want to hear, not to play one group against the other, but to remember that he must be prepared to be President of all the people and not just the President of part of the people against other parts of the people. [Applause.]

And in that connection may I say that our farm families, I find, are just as concerned about the great issue of keeping the peace, which was referred to before I came to this platform, as they are about farm income, because they know that farm income isn't going to mean a thing if they are not around to enjoy it. They know that as far as their children are concerned they want a better life for them on the farm - or in the city if they move to the city - but they want them to be able to enjoy life in peace and in freedom.

And I say to you today that as I present my case on the farm program, I also present it in this other area. I am proud of the record of the Eisenhower administration, a record that has been criticized. But all the criticism in the world cannot obscure the fact that in the past 7½ years, under the leadership of President Eisenhower, we ended one war, we have kept the Nation out of other wars; and we have peace without surrender today. [Applause.]

And I pledge to this group here that I shall try to follow programs in the future that will keep America stronger than any other nation militarily; that will keep us firm diplomatically in dealing with the men in the Kremlin. And I think I know something about how to deal with them and how not to deal with them. And that will keep America on the offensive around the world in the cause of peace and in the cause of freedom.

But above all, may I say I would hope that as one running for the Presidency, above all I could contribute to strengthening that particular phase of our life that gives us the greatest advantage in the struggle for peace and freedom. It is not our military strength, and it is not our economic strength. It is not even the productivity of our farms. But it is the ideals of America, the moral and spiritual strength of this country, that the end will prove decisive in the struggle between freedom and communism.

And I say to all of you: A President can't do this alone. This idealism, strengthening our moral fiber, must come from the people themselves. And today, as I have seen these communities, these great vast audiences in the towns of Iowa and Nebraska - and this one here today at Guthrie Center - I say the heart of America is sound; its moral fiber is strong; and America can and will lead the world to peace, with freedom and with justice. And any man who is President of this United States will know that he heads the strongest nation not only militarily and economically, but the strongest nation morally and spiritually. And for that we thank you.

And so, finally, I say to you: This is my case. I ask you to consider it. I do not ask you to vote for me on the basis of personal appearance and the like. I do not ask you to vote for me because I may be of the same party.

I say: Consider what I have said. Consider whether this program is best for America. And if you think it is best for America, then it will be best for you and for the cause of free men throughout the world.

And on that basis only, I present the case to you. And may God be with you all the days of your life.

Thank you. [Applause.]

Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Nixon, 21st Annual Plowing Contest, Guthrie Center, IA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project