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Statements of Senator John F. Kennedy and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson at the Farm Conference, Des Moines, Iowa

August 21, 1960

Senator HUMPHREY. We are now at the point in our program where I believe that it would be well to have a comment or so or an observation from the men that have come here to hear us, and to share in this meeting as active participants.

I was hopeful we would have the time to have many questions come from the floor, but I am sure you appreciate with me that if we are going to get over to that auditorium where we have several thousand people waiting to hear our candidates, we had better move along.

Therefore, with your indulgence, and I trust with your agreement, I am going to call first upon the man who, I think, has been the greatest leader the U.S. Senate has ever had. In the main I can say, Lyndon, most of the time at least, I have followed that leadership and found it to be for the good of this great Nation. He is a great friend of American agriculture, a truly great patriotic man, and next Vice President of the United States, Senator Lyndon Johnson. [Applause.]

Senator JOHNSON. My fellow farmers and fellow Americans, I came here to listen and to learn. I came here to tell you that I violently disagree with the statement the present Vice President of the United States made in this city many years ago, namely that the Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Benson, would go down in history as one of the greatest Secretaries of Agriculture in the history of our country. [Applause.]

I did not come here to get personal. I don't think Mr. Benson is entirely to blame for the mess in which the farmers find themselves. It is too big a mess for any one man to do by himself.

I am proud to be on the ticket with John F. Kennedy. [Applause.] I believe when he is sworn in that he will staff the Department of Agriculture with men who are in sympathy with the farmers of this Nation. [Applause.]

Down in my part of the country, we don't make the executors of our wills or the trustees of our children from enemies of our family. I agree with the recommendations made by the members who attended this meeting yesterday. I embrace in toto the recommendations on agriculture made in our platform. I believe that the next Democratic administration will do something about reducing mortgages that have soared 50 percent under the Republican administration, and something about farm income that has dropped 30 percent. I say this to you - if you will recommend it, we will study it and evaluate it, and the Congress will pass it. And although I can't completely speak for him, I assure you that when we do, the President will sign it. [Applause.]

Senator HUMPHREY. Thank you, Lyndon. When you said the President would sign it, it sort of shook me up. It has been so long since one has signed anything that I could not stand it.

Don't you let any of these Republicans tell you that we have a Democratic farm program working. Just don't ever let that happen a minute.

Now I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. There is no man in this room or woman that knows the man I am about to introduce better than I do, I will tell you. I have been through the snowbanks of Wisconsin and up and down the mountains of West Virginia with this fellow. And Lyndon told me he just had a brief acquaintance with him in Los Angeles. I can say this is the only presidential candidate that has really had his spring training, and I gave it to him.

I want one other thing quite clear. There were times during these preliminaries that there was a slight argument or two between the two of us, and I never admitted this before publicly, but I lost.

So without any further ado, all I want to say to everyone of my farm friends that are here that I have worked with over the years, and some of you have been very close to me, and I have been close to you - I want to on record here unqualifiedly as saying that one thing about Senator John Kennedy - if he gives you his word and he says he is going to do it, he does it. He told me last year that he was going to lick me, and he did it. I told him if he did, I would support him, and I am.

Now we have to have a little fun, but this is a very serious moment, and it is a rare opportunity and privilege to present to you the man that I know is going to be the next President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, the Senator from Massachusetts. [Applause.]

Senator KENNEDY. Lyndon opened with a statement "fellow farmers," but I am not quite ready to go quite that far.

I want to say, after Hubert I don't think Nixon can be quite that rough. After running against Hubert, it is all going to be easy. Any time any "truth squad" or Senator Scott or the Vice President says anything unkind about me or gets rough or anything, I will say, "I have been through it much tougher than this in Wisconsin and West Virginia."

In any case, I am delighted to have him with me now, and I must say that he has been a constant friend since our traveling days together in Wisconsin and West Virginia.

I think this is an important conference. This conference has two purposes: First, because we were anxious, Senator Johnson and myself, to establish contact with farmers in the Midwest of the United States in order to get their latest views and their reactions to the Democratic platform, and also because this is the only meeting we have had and will have in the month of August, which both of us are going to attend, which demonstrates our strong feeling that this is the No.4 domestic issue in the United States today, the problem of the family farm. [Applause.]

I talked to Governor Loveless at Cape Cod, and I said I thought that we should have a farm conference, and I hoped that he would take the leadership in it. This is the result. This is the work that he has done in the month that has elapsed since our meeting. I want to express our appreciation to him for the leadership he has given to this conference, to the Members of Congress, to Senator Kefauver who has been through an exhausting campaign and yet came out here to lend a helping hand to the Democratic Party again - [applause] - and to Congressman Poage and the others from an entirely different part of the United States, but who recognize the interdependence of the American economy.

I come from Massachusetts, but my State and this country cannot possibly move ahead unless the farmers of this country move ahead. I don't think that any farmer in the United States is going to buy the crop of campaign promises that are going to be made in 1960 by the Republican candidate in view of the fact that they bought even better campaign promises in 1952, and also to Senator Symington, who has served on the Agriculture Committee, who has associated himself with us in this campaign and who was with us this afternoon - this is a great party. I think it is dedicated to the improvement of American agriculture, and it has been throughout its entire history since the time that a farmer, Thomas Jefferson, founded the Democratic Party. Its strength down through the days of Bryan and all of the rest has been in the Midwestern United States, and in the farmers of this country, South and Southwest. So this is an important election. I think that those of you who served in Congress know that there is not any use in electing a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. We have had that the last 6 years. But unless you have an administration and a Secretary of Agriculture and a President who will support a program, then the Congress is up against a stone wall. The President of the United States has vetoed bill after bill, and if a Republican President is again elected, he will veto bill after bill. So this is a joint effort in which we are engaged. I think that if we are going to do anything to move the American farmer ahead like he must be, if this economy is going to be maintained throughout the country, we need a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. I say this - even though I know I am the candidate - we need also a Democratic President and Vice President if we are going to do the job.

I ask your help. I think this job is going to be done. I think we can win this election in the heartland of the United States. I think the Republicans are in trouble. We are going to campaign in every one of these States. We want your help.

Governor Freeman mentioned the fact that I brought to the floor and passed a bill for $1.25 minimum wage. That is my responsibility, and I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor. President Eisenhower recommended 2 weeks ago that the Congress adopt a minimum wage bill. When that bill came for a final passage, the Democrats voted for it 3 to 1, but a majority of the Republicans led by Senator Dirksen and Senator Goldwater and Senator Bridges, the three most powerful Republicans on that side, all voted against it. A majority of them opposed $1.25 minimum wage by 1964.

Now, what is true of the minimum wage is true of agricultural programs. We are going to hear more commitments to more social welfare programs in the next 3 months, but in the final analysis when they come to the vote, and when they come for the President's signature, they are going to be opposed. It has always been that way in the Republican Party, and it is that way. That is why I think it is important that we win this election. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Statements of Senator John F. Kennedy and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson at the Farm Conference, Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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