Richard Nixon photo

Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, 1960 Soil Conservation Field Days, National Plowing Contest Site, Sioux Falls, SD

September 23, 1960

Mr. NIXON. Senator Mundt, all of the distinguished guests here on the platform, and this wonderfully patient audience here in South Dakota that I know comes from all over the farm States of America, I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and particularly in view of the weather that I understand cannot be blamed on the Republicans because we had it yesterday too. [Laughter.]

I know that the conditions under which you will listen to this speech are not the best, but the subject is of vital importance, and I therefore do welcome the opportunity to talk to you as you stand here hopeful that while I am talking you will not suffer too much discomfort.

May I say incidentally, I was certainly most pleased and honored to have my good friend, Karl Mundt, introduce me. Everybody in South Dakota knows my personal friendship for him, the fact that we worked together in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate, and since I have become Vice President he has become one of my closest and best advisers not only in the field of agriculture but in other areas; and I am delighted to be with him here on this occasion and with my other colleagues on our party 5 ticket not only from this State but from others as well.

May I say, too, that to participate in this great function is one that I consider to be one of the highlights of this campaign, a highlight because as your master of ceremonies said a few moments ago, this is the greatest agricultural function in America. I have had occasion to address it on one previous occasion, and I know how important it is, and how tremendously interesting it is particularly to those from our farm States who have the opportunity to come here to share information on conservation, on the practices which will enable them to be more productive on the farm, the opportunity, too, to have a little fun as I notice from the various facilities that are available for the children and some of the grownups who still like to think we are children, too.

Certainly I know when I take my daughters to Disneyland in California I think I spend more time on the various entertainment devices than they do.

But for all these things, this particular meeting is one that a candidate for public office feels indeed very honored to be invited to address.

Now I know that the primary interest of an audience of this type, particularly on this occasion, is the farm problem, as we have been accustomed to call it, and a solution for that problem. I want to devote the major portion of my remarks today to that subject, just as my opponent devoted the major portion of his remarks to that subject.

But I would not want this opportunity to pass without also talking about the other issues which confront the American people in this campaign, not all of them, of course, but at least those that unite all of us regardless of what we may be, whether we are farmers or city folk whether we are wage earners or employees, whether we live in the East or the West or the North or the South.

We want a solution, for example, to the farm problem. I happen to think that the program that I will announce today coupled with the one I announced at Guthrie Center, Iowa, last week does provide a solution for it. But while we also want a solution for the farm problem, I find that farmers along with all Americans want to be around to enjoy the solutions that we find for our difficult domestic problems, and I find that in our farm communities as well as in all America wherever you go, from Hawaii in the far, far West to Maine in the East, that the people of America, above everything else want the kind of leadership which will keep the peace without surrender for America, and the world, and extend freedom throughout the world.

And on that point, I first want to say that I am proud of the record of the administration of which I am a part. President Eisenhower will conclude his services as President in just a few months. There are many things that I think the American people will be grateful to him for as he finishes 8 years as the Chief Executive of this land. They will be grateful because he has brought such great dignity and integrity and honesty to the highest office in this land, always a splendid example to the children of America. [Applause.]

They will be grateful because under his leadership, America has moved for ward economically, so that we are the most productive Nation in the world, with the highest standard of living the people have ever enjoyed in the history of the world. But above everything else, I say, Americans will remember Dwight Eisenhower and be grateful to him because under his leadership he ended one war, we have kept out of other wars, and we do have peace without surrender for America and the world today. [Applause.]

I happen to believe that the major responsibility of the next President along with his other responsibilities in the domestic field is to keep the peace and to keep it without surrender. I happen to believe also that the policies and the programs which my colleague, Henry Cabot Lodge and I advocate, that those policies and programs can best accomplish that objective and I would like to say in that connection that while time will not permit me to do more than sum them up, that I believe that to keep the peace we must design programs which will take into account the nature of those who threaten the peace, the men in the Kremlin. I think I know those men. I know how they react. I know that you cannot expect them to react as do the leaders of the free world, like President de Gaulle, Prime Minister Nehru, and Prime Minister Macmillan, because they are men determined to conquer the world by any means if necessary without war, if possible.

So, therefore, if America is to keep the peace there are certain things we must do. We must be the strongest nation in the world militarily and we must be prepared to keep America that way as she is today. [Applause.]

We must be firm in our diplomacy in dealing with Mr. Khrushchev at the conference table, always willing to go an extra mile as President Eisenhower has said, working for disarmament, working for reduction of tension, but again as he has said, never reducing our arms strength until we are sure he is going to do likewise with his.

This is what I mean by firm diplomacy that will serve the cause of peace, rather than harm it.

And also in this period we must keep the economy of this Nation strong, we must keep it sound, and I will have more to say about that in connection with my discussion of the farm program and, finally, we must keep the moral and spiritual fiber of this country strong, and that means not only our Chief Executive must provide leadership but that the hearts of our people, their minds, their souls, individually must be mobilized to accomplish that objective.

I emphasize that for this reason: that will be decisive in the long run, not the military strength of America which is necessary, not our tremendous productivity which is a great advantage, but the fact that America stands for great ideals, our faith in God, our belief in the dignity of man, our belief that the rights that men have for freedom and independence come not from men but from God and therefore they belong to all men as well as to ourselves.

These things you the people of America can do, you can do to strengthen our moral fiber, the belief of our children in those

great ideals because they must come from our homes, they must come from our churches, they must come from the schools of America.

And so in this case, may I say as I look to the future on this issue of keeping the peace I know it will not be easy, I think it can be done because I think we are on the right side, and we have the strength to see that right prevails and this is what America wants. It is what the world wants in these difficult times.

And now if I could turn to the farm problem and if I could relate it as well to the ones that I have just been discussing. First some general things about this problem I would like to say.

I have studied it. I would like to say that I grew up on the farm so that I could pose as an expert. As a matter of fact, I did grow up up on a what we call a ranch in California. It was a citrus ranch. I know what it means to dig out a burrow, and hoe weeds out from under the trees. At least that was the case before we learned about conservation and we started to grow cover crops, since then.

But it was a rather poor citrus grove and my father left it when I was 10 years of age. So I cannot claim to be an expert even of growing lemons and oranges in California.

On the other hand, I think it is the business of anybody running for public office to make himself an expert if he can on great issues. I do not pretend to be one on the farm issue, but I have studied it a lot. I have listened to all kinds of people. I have heard all kinds of arguments. I have found that there just is not one farm program, but there is a farm problem for every crop that is grown and you have to have different solutions for many of them.

I have found that many well-intentioned people, believing just as deeply in the interest of the farm as I do and Karl Mundt does, differ on how to solve this problem and the conclusions that I give you today I want to tell you are honest conclusions. They are things that I think will work. I am not going to say a thing here today that I am putting out for the purpose of getting your vote with the idea of forgetting it after election time.

Now that is how I begin and so if I may turn [applause] if I should turn to the problem itself, these are the things that I have learned.

First, what is wrong about the farm problem in the United States? I suppose you can answer that question better than I. These are the things I would sum up.

First, farm income has not shared in the increase in prosperity that Americans have enjoyed, and we must rectify this situation. Some farmers have done reasonably well, but generally speaking on the average, while the rest of the economy, the wage earner, the business people, and the others have moved up, the farmers have not moved up accordingly. So this must be our first objective.

How do we get farmers to share in America's growth and in the returns from that growth?

The second point that I would make is this: The farm programs that we have shot through with politics are programs which while they cost billions of dollars do not accomplish the objective that we set out to accomplish because instead of shoring up the farm income as they should they have tended to build up surpluses which have depressed prices and depressed farm income.

Third as far as our price-support programs are concerned, we find that they worked inequitably, inequitably because if they are designed to help those that need help they do not do it. I have found in studying the situation that the present price-support laws help the small farmers the least and the most prosperous the most. These are the things that are wrong that I would like to point to. I also want to point to some things that are right about the farm problem in the United States.

The first one is the thing that is right as far as the consumers are concerned. We are the best fed, best clothed people in the world. My wife and I have traveled around this world to 55 countries. I know what it means to see famine. I have seen little children in India, Pakistan, in South America even, with their bellies swollen out because of lack of a proper diet.

I know that, for example, the per capita income in India is one-twentieth of what it is in the poorest State in the United States. And I say that when we consider the farm problem that the American people never forgot that we owe our tremendous prosperity primarily to the fact that our farmers are the most productive that civilization has ever produced. This is a plus.

There is another thing that is a plus. Our farmers' productivity has given us a tremendous advantage in the struggle in which we are engaged. More about that later.

Another thing as far as this farm problem is concerned, is the fact that we are able to produce far more than we can consume in this country means that America has a great weapon for peace, a weapon which can be used not primarily just to fight communism, which is a negative objective, but can be used to fight hunger and misery and disease all over the world, and this helps us, but it is also a great American tradition of concern for those less fortunate than we are, and again our farm productivity makes it possible.

This means that because we are so productive in agriculture we now can for the first time in the history of civilization realize a dream that men have had and never have been able to hope to realize and that is to fight a winning war against misery, against poverty, and that means a better world for all of us all over the world and for our children in the United States.

And so you see when we look at the problem that way we see the opportunities in it, and I want to say as Karl Mundt already implied in his remarks that I do not look at this as a hopeless problem. I look at it as one of the greatest opportunities the next Chief Executive of this country has. I look at it as an exciting challenge.

I say what we have to do is not develop a program that will fasten before the farmers from time on out, controls directed from Washington, D.C. I say that the thing we want to do is make an asset out of our productivity. We should look as to how we can expand our markets and expand our consumption, so that we can have not only high prices but also full production on the farm. This is the way to make an asset out of America's tremendous productivity. [Applause.]

Now, there is another point that I would make. How do we accomplish this?

First, when we examine our problem it is very simple to summarize it. We produce more than we can consume. Now, the question is how do you get consumption into balance with production? One way of course is to increase consumption. Another way is reduce production. Both of these devices had to be used to a certain extent in a transition period.

But, on the other hand, what we must bear in mind is this: How did we get in this present situation, and this is fundamental for the American people, particularly, to remember. We got into this situation not because of some fault of America's farmers, but because of what the Government asked the farmers to do. The Government adopted programs to stimulate the farmers to produce more to meet the needs of war. We still have such programs and so the surpluses are a result of farmers relying on what the Government told them to do.

Now, in getting rid of surpluses and getting them off the back of the farmers, if the Government is responsible for getting the farmer into this predicament the Government must share and bear the cost of getting him out of this predicament. In other words, we cannot have a farm program which, in getting rid of the surpluses, does it by bankrupting America's farmers. We cannot have the program that, in other words, makes the farmer pay the cost for reducing the surpluses to manageable proportion. That in a nutshell is the substance of my thinking on the problem.

Now, if I could go from there how do we do this? How do we accomplish this transition from a situation where we have too much production for the markets that we have and too little consumption?

Well, we have to work at both ends of the pipeline. I worked at the other end of the pipeline or at least talked at it and the one I am going to speak at today, at my speech at Guthrie Center. I developed a program that I call "Operation Consume." That is, how do we increase consumption? And there were four points I made there. I will summarize them briefly.

One, we will expand the food for peace program. Two, create a strategic food reserve.

We will use payments in kind from our surpluses to help expand land conservation.

And, finally, a new program - and I ask you to study it, consider it, because I believe it has great possibilities - a new program of converting grain to protein foods, like beef, chickens, et cetera, for sale overseas and for distribution to the needy at home and abroad.

That is the essence of the program designed to reduce the surpluses and I have set as a target date for getting our surpluses into manageable proportions, a period of 4 years and I have indicated that in financing this program we should be prepared to pay more now in order to reduce the costs later.

Let us go at it in an imaginative way, in a bold way, because our trouble in the past is that we have been too timid, in my opinion, in attempting to strike at this problem.

Now that was "Operation Consume."

"Operation Safeguard" I want to talk about today, and that is designed to keep us from accumulating more surpluses at the time that we are reducing them over here.

Now, what does "Operation Safeguard" do?

First, it involves a substantial expansion of the conservation reserve program on a temporary basis to help adjust production to our Nation's needs.

Why should it be temporary? Because as population expands in America, and the world as well, we in the future are going to need every last acre we can find.

Look for a moment what is going to happen to population in this country. In 10 years we will have 20 to 30 million more people to feed than we have now. In 20 years we will have 50 to 90 million more people to feed than we have now.

So, therefore, America's farmers can look forward to a period when we will need every acre that we have into production. But as of now acres that add to our excess production can be voluntarily retired with fair rentals for a period of 3 to 10 years.

Now there is an added advantage. The conservation reserve amounts to a form of income insurance as well as constituting voluntary production control by the farmer himself.

Now, in expanding the conservation reserve there are difficulties that we must carefully avoid. These difficulties, incidentally, I have discussed at length with Karl Mundt, other Senators from this area, and Congressmen, and these are the guidelines that I lay down and I ask you to listen to them very carefully.

It is imperative that this program be wisely administered and that means better administered than it has been in the past. These things must be done.

First, we've got to have good conservation practices on the rented land. Conservation practices such as this great meeting here today are served to promote.

Second, it is self-defeating if in this program we shift only marginal land, grass, and trees.

And third in administering the conservation reserve program, we must avoid injury to the economies of local communities as acres go out of production. That is why a primary objective in administering the program must be not to take the whole farms out of production.

Now, so much for the conservation reserves.

A second string to our bow of Operation Safeguard is an effective system of price supports. Now, I realize that this is a very controversial subject and you know better than I how complex it is. It would be very easy for me to stand up here and say that my opponent suggests 120 percent and 125, I raise him 150 percent, but you would know that I could not produce. You would also know that I should not produce in your own best interests on such a promise as that.

I want to tell you something today about a price support program that will work, one that I think the country will support, one that will meet these problems and meet it effectively. The challenge we have here is to find a way intelligently to help the farmers in this field.

Now, our price support program. I know that many farmers have written to me and that they have talked about the fact that they want to reach the time when they can make their own decision as to what to plant and where they can sell their output profitably through the normal channels of trade and not to Government.

In other words, many farmers have said: "What we want is to work toward a program of freedom from controls, get away from all this Federal Government activity as far as our farm programs are concerned."

Let me say this: I believe that is a good objective. It is one toward which we should work. But let us remember this: We cannot move from where we are with a system of price supports and a system of controls to where we want to go in a single step. In this transition period, while we are cutting down the price-depressing surplus that overhangs the market and bringing agriculture into better balance, we have to have a program that will protect farm income and see that the farmer is not harmed in this period.

Thereafter, after we get the surpluses reduced to manageable proportion, then the farmers can regain their freedom to grow what they wish for markets, free of burden of accumulated stocks on the economy. Let us say this is the transition period. While we are still working on the surpluses what should we do with regard to the price-support program?

We have to make a special effort to bring current output and consumption more nearly into balance in that period.

For that purpose it will be necessary to legislate a temporary cutback in agriculture allotment of any price-supported crop which is so heavily in surplus as to bring injury to those who farm the crop.

Wheat is a good example. I would have the land thus withdrawn from production administered as part of the conservation reserve program. But - and this is the important point to bear in mind - during this period of transition, farm income must be protected.

How do we do that?

We can accomplish this objective, I believe, through a program of favorable payment in kind which can be used to help compensate farmers for the mandatory cut in acres and thus we avoid in the transition period harmful adjustments in price-support levels, and this I believe is a workable program, and there are two extremes that I will describe in a moment.

By these actions, farmer income and markets as well can be protected through the transition years. Once we deal with the

surpluses, once markets achieve a new buoyance reflecting a better relationship of supply and demand, we should move to a long-term price-support system with levels based on average market prices over the immediately preceding crop year. But we cannot move to that, I say, until we get the surpluses off the backs of the farmers and off the backs of the market.

Let me put it this way: I think we have seen two extremes in our approach to this whole problem, particularly where a congressional deadlock is concerned. On the one hand, there are those who insist that we've got to move to a free market and toward more normal conditions at a speed and by means that would fail adequately to protect farm income in a period of transition. I am against that kind of a move.

On the other hand, we have those who insist on purely political programs that would stunt our market, add to the surpluses and in addition, require almost day-to-day control by the Federal Government. I do not think either extreme makes sense. That is why I have proposed a realistic forward-looking way that will deal with the surpluses, protect farm income during the transition period and will move toward freedom once we get the surpluses off the farmers' backs.

Now let me turn to the third phase of Operation Safeguard. Full mobilization of the rural development program. This is a splendid program started by President Eisenhower. It is one that I look forward to pressing into greater service for low-income farm families. Those on inadequate farms with either inadequate capital or inadequate know-how require and deserve the open-hearted and effective guidance and help from those entrusted with the public good. And by all means possible, vigorously pursued by a deeply concerned Government, those farm people who might otherwise be forced from the land and the environment that they love can have new sources of livelihood. They can continue to live in rural America, and they can continue to be an active part of it.

This program which I have seen in operation in various States is one that is very close to my heart. I am determined to realize its full potential.

The fourth phase, the cost-price squeeze---

(At this point the tape apparently was changed on the recorder and this part of Mr. Nixon's speech was not included.)

The reason for research is obvious. It improves nutrition, we expand markets, we find new markets, and we find new industrial and other uses for our farm products, and we reduce production and distribution costs.

And, finally, my sixth point is this. We have to find a new practical way in which farmers themselves participate in advising and directing the programs that we have in this field. That is why I believe we should set up a council of representatives of working farmers and ranchers to advise the President. It should be set up by law in order that it will be an official group. It should be selected on a regional basis and its members as nearly as possible should represent all of American agriculture.

Now, in summary, the efforts as I have outlined here and the ones that I outlined in Iowa a week ago, I believe, offer a real chance to move confidently ahead in prosperity and freedom for America's farmers, and I want to ask you to do this. I ask you to read what I have said, in both places, study it and if you are convinced that this is the best solution, then on that basis I can, and only on that basis, ask for your support.

These two projects "Operation Consume" and "Operation Safeguard" will make excessive controls and idle surpluses unhappy memories and farm families can expect to share fully in the promise and opportunity of a free America. [Applause.]

Chairman Khrushchev just recently, in Pravda, wrote these words:

He said:

If we catch up with the United States in per capita production of meat, butter, and milk, we will fire a powerful torpedo under the foundations of capitalism.

This is my answer and the answer of the farmers of America to Mr. Khrushchev, while he is on American soil. If a food torpedo is to be fired, it is going to be fired by American farmers at the very foundations of communism throughout the world.

Thank you. [Applause.)

ANNOUNCER: You have just heard an address by the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Richard Nixon and the address took place at the National Plowing Contest site near Sioux Falls.

Richard Nixon, Speech of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, 1960 Soil Conservation Field Days, National Plowing Contest Site, Sioux Falls, SD Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project