The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't anything myself today, but Secretary Hyde has just been through the whole of the major drought area and he can tell you direct--and much more useful to you than if I told you indirectly-what is going on. So I am going to leave the job in his hands.
INSPECTION OF DROUGHT AREA BY SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
SECRETARY HYDE. Gentlemen, for your information, all of our drought area is covered by the Memphis, St. Louis, and Washington offices. I went out and covered St. Louis and Memphis, and then made a rather extended trip out in the field--into Arkansas.
These drought relief loans have undoubtedly reached the spot. All through Tennessee and the northern part of Mississippi and Louisiana, and in Arkansas you can see new garden fences. The ground is prepared and they have the seed and the means for making a new crop. They are going at it on a better basis than they have been before because one of the requirements of our loans has been that they should put in a garden for the purpose of maintaining the farm family, and that requirement, I am delighted to find, has been followed out so far as I could observe in every case. Those gardens are beginning to come through the ground. Of course, the crops are not yet visible. Planting has not gone very far but the preparation has.
Now, the extent of this thing may be interesting to you. Up until this morning we had made 186,632 separate loans, for an aggregate amount of $27,472,000. That is an average of $153 a family.
In talking to men by the side of the road and driving in to farmhouses and talking to local committees that are interested in the distribution of these loans, I find that there is a very much more hopeful attitude all through the country, not only out on the farms but in the towns. I didn't find a single criticism. One old fellow by the side of the road did have a criticism to the effect that the Red Cross had not fed too little but that they fed too much. So I take it they have done a splendid job all through that part of the country. I talked with the head of the Red Cross, with the Extension [Service] directors, and with bankers, and without any exception they were loud in their praise of these seed loans and the Red Cross operations.
If there are any questions I will be glad to answer.
A very important feature of that is the fact that they have had some very fine rains out there--not the torrential rain that washes everything out, but nice slow drizzling rain that soaks down into the ground.
Q. How about the livestock ?
SECRETARY HYDE. Livestock--they just don't have very much--a pair of mules and perhaps in some rare instances a cow, but that is one of the criticisms of their agriculture out there.
Q. Do you loan money to buy a cow ?
SECRETARY HYDE. No, we can loan money to feed one and are doing that, but if they don't have one they are out of luck.
THE PRESIDENT. There has been no loss of livestock in that territory ?
SECRETARY HYDE. No.
Q. Are those loans made on collateral ?
SECRETARY HYDE. The only collateral with them is the crop to be made.
Q. No difficulty about any of the needy persons putting up collateral ?
SECRETARY HYDE. No; we have been very lenient in scanning all loans of $100 or less, and have indulged in rather hopeful optimism about the crop they are going to have.
Q. Was there any human suffering that you heard about ?
SECRETARY HYDE. They didn't tell me of a bit. There undoubtedly was some until the Red Cross got in operation. There undoubtedly would have been a great deal except for the operation of the Red Cross, but from every quarter I receive the information that that need had been met in a splendid way.
Q. Does this $27 million about clean up the situation ?
SECRETARY HYDE. I tried to find out something about that but the committees were absolutely undecided. One committee reported 95 percent through, another said 75 percent, and another said 40 percent-and I don't know what to say. My guess would be that we have made more than half of the loans that will need to be made.
Q. You have $45 million for that purpose ?
SECRETARY HYDE. $55 million, that includes the agricultural.
THE PRESIDENT. You have $65 million altogether.
SECRETARY HYDE. Yes. We have $10 million set aside for the agricultural credit; $45 million for seed; and $10 million for feed and fertilizer.
Q. Mr. Secretary, can you tell me anything about the permanence of those agricultural credit operations ?
SECRETARY HYDE. We are trying very determinedly to have them settled on a basis of permanence. We are finding the committees in the various States working along that same basis. We require a little bit of contribution of local credit in order to guarantee a continuing local interest and the type of management that will make them successful. We are working very closely with the State committees and the intermediate credit banks that cover these areas.
Q. Do you calculate that the agricultural credit corporations will be a permanent understructure to the intermediate credit banks ?
SECRETARY HYDE. I hope so--yes.
Q. You don't need any further legislation to do that ?
SECRETARY HYDE. No. That is the whole purpose of that act. And we hope to do it on a basis that will be permanent.
Mr. Joslin suggests that the question might arise as to whether or not these rains had broken the drought and offered a prospect for a good crop this year. I think we can answer very positively--they have broken the drought and if normal precipitation is figured through the season we could say they would have a very fine crop down there. That to some extent depends upon what happens hereafter, but there is nothing pessimistic in the present outlook.
Note: President Hoover's one hundred and eighty-fifth news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, April 7, 1931.
Secretary of Agriculture Arthur M. Hyde left Washington on March 30 for a 4-day inspection tour of conditions in the drought areas.
Theodore G. Joslin was Secretary to the President.
Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/211981