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Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on Republicans and the Farmer, Wichita, KS

October 22, 1960

There is an old saying that the farmer votes Republican only if he can afford it.

I don't think the farmer can afford to vote Republican in 1960. I think the farmer is in the position of the famous Mark Twain hero who rose rapidly from affluence to poverty. For the farmer has been led to believe in affluence by Republican promises while being reduced to poverty by Republican actions.

They offered the golden promise of Kasson - the promise of 100 percent supports. They delivered flexible supports, with wheat now at 72 percent of parity.

They promised to get the Government out of agriculture. They delivered Ezra Benson, who has spent more money on price-support operations than all past agriculture secretaries put together. Instead of taking the Government out of agriculture, he's taken the farmer out.

They sang the praises of the family farmer and promised to strengthen the family farm. They delivered a cut of 25 percent in farm income, the high interest rate, and the soil bank with its whole farm provision.

And now once again they come forward with a farm policy that does nothing to raise the farmer's prices or cut down the surpluses - a program blending the familiar ingredients of glowing promises and harmful practice.

Mr. Nixon promises a massive land retirement program to cut down the surpluses. What that massive land retirement program will cut down is the farmer and the taxpayer. It will continue and expand the liquidation of the family farmer set in motion by Ezra Taft Benson of agriculture.

It will probably shrink the farm economy by another 125 million acres. At the same time it will continue the wild spending policies of Mr. Benson. It would most certainly cost the taxpayers $3 billion annually.

Mr. Nixon also promises, with the usual Madison Avenue touch, Operation Consume. But he knows, as you know, that the program for expanding domestic consumption is a Democratic program. He knows, as you know, that the program of food for peace is a Democratic program. The one new element, the strange idea of converting grain surplus into animal products, is a boondoggle about which the Vice President gives no specifics. And even that strange idea is not original. In describing it Mr. Nixon said: "We will use the surplus to use up the surplus." Who said that first? Well, 4 years earlier, Ezra Taft Benson said: "We will use the surplus to use up the surplus."

The plain fact of the matter is that Mr. Nixon does not understand the farm problem any more than Mr. Benson. He assumes that the problem is just a liquidation of the current stocks piled up under the Republicans. But in fact, the surplus this year is between 7 and 9 percent. It will be greater than that in 1965 unless the country moves toward a sensible approach to the farmer, unless the country moves toward the Democratic Party, for only the Democratic Party has ever had the courage to deal with farm matters on a sensible and mature basis.

John F. Kennedy, Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on Republicans and the Farmer, Wichita, KS Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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