Jimmy Carter photo

Waterville Township, Ohio Remarks to Area Residents.

October 25, 1980

Thank you, Governor John Glenn. [Laughter] Senator Glenn is one of the great leaders of our Nation, a hero who has put the brightest feature of our country before the eyes of the entire world, as you know, in the military and now in the Senate. It's indeed an honor for me to be introduced by him. He's a man who is familiar with Ohio problems and international problems as well. I'm also grateful that Senator Howard Metzenbaum is here, another great leader. You are indeed well represented in the United States Senate.

I was with Lud Ashley and Don Pease earlier, and I'm very grateful today to be with two people that at this moment are even more important to me and that's Don and Carolyn Schaller and their family.

Bob Bergland, a great Secretary of Agriculture, is also here, and after my speech he will be available to answer questions from the farm organizations and the farm reporters, because what I've decided to do here on this beautiful farm is to make a more formal address, not only to this group assembled here but for the entire Nation, on one of the most important subjects that could possibly be discussed by any President and particularly during a campaign season, and that's on agriculture.

This is a story that hasn't been adequately told. And this speech will be recorded, and later it will be replayed in all the great agricultural States of the Nation. You might be interested in knowing, for instance, that the number one industry in New York State is agriculture, and, of course, I come from an agricultural State as well. I have to admit, looking out at this beautiful black soil, that we could use it as fertilizer on my farm— [laughter] —and make a better crop.

But today I want to make this speech verbatim so I will refer to my notes. And I wish you'd listen very carefully, because this message, that comes to you directly from me, will be going to literally millions of others in this Nation, both in the cities and on the farms, who believe that God has given us a great gift in our land over which we have a responsibility to exercise proper stewardship.

You have an important choice to make on November the 4th, not just between two candidates and two parties, but your choice could be between two different futures, for you and .for your children and for your country. Nowhere is that choice more clear than in the future of our Nation's agriculture.

The farm programs of the last five decades, 50 years, came originally from Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal. Democratic Presidents and Democrats in Congress have supported and have improved these programs. For 8 years before I took office, Republican Presidents mismanaged the affairs of American farmers. They repeatedly vetoed needed price support legislation• Four times in 1973, 1974, and 1975, the two Republican Presidents embargoed farm exports, including those to some of our most important international trading partners, not to protect our Nation's strategic and security interests, but for the express purpose of driving American farm prices down. There was no real effort to develop new farm markets such as those in Mexico and in China.

The Republicans imposed price controls on food and cut off food aid to hungry nations while production costs on the farms soared. Poorly managed grain inspection as you well remember allowed substandard shipments of American grain overseas to tarnish the reputation of American farmers. Domestic markets were flooded with imported meat at the worst time for our farmers and our ranchers. Import quotas for dairy products went up five times in one year alone. By the time I took office, grain prices were in a tailspin.

Think back to 1976 and early 1977. Cattle producers were liquidating herds after 4 years of heavy losses. Farm income was dropping fast. Consumers and producers were in open confrontation. And our Nation's reputation as a reliable exporter of farm products had been severely damaged. In short, the farm policy that I inherited was an unholy mess.

I came into office with a lifetime of experience in farming. As a boy, I got up at 4 o'clock in the morning, as many of you did, to catch the mules and be in the field, waiting for it to be light enough so I would know how to plow the rows of cotton and corn and peanuts so that I would not plow up the crops as we tried to control the bermuda grass. And we got back to the house after sundown and then had to feed and water the livestock without electricity on the farm to help. I grew up learning the hard way about the hard work and the complex economics of farming, and how valuable and how vulnerable farm families are to distant economic events over which we had very little control or influence in those days.

I learned the value of listening to other farmers. That's why I appointed Bob Bergland, a farmer, as my Secretary of Agriculture. That was a radical departure from the Republican policy of recruiting from the boardrooms of large agribusiness corporations, from large banks, and from commodity exchanges, the Secretaries of Agriculture who served under Republicans' administration. That may explain the Republican indifference to the ordinary farmer, but I changed that, and this is how. And I hope you'll listen carefully.

First, we set out to reduce government interference and to return production and marketing decisions to farmers. The cornerstone of this policy is a farmerowned grain reserve, which has taken government out of the grain business. The grain reserve has become one of the most effective farm marketing tools ever devised. Just look at the results. In the last 4 years, we've had several record large crops; in wheat and corn there have been back-to-back record years. In 1979 we saw record yields unequaled in history in six major crops. Yet the bottom did not fall out of the market, thanks to the grain reserve. When prices began to weaken, enough farmers put their grain into the reserve on their own farms to cushion the market. They were able to hold off selling when prices dipped. And when prices rose, the farmers, not the middlemen, cashed in.

At the same time we began the reserve, we increased aid for building onfarm storage. Since 1976 farmers built 1.8 billion more bushels of on-the-farm grain storage capacity. And last month, I approved legislation to help build even more.

We did away with the out-dated and the rigid acreage allotment system, which you remember. Farmers were freed to make planting decisions based on market conditions, rather than on Federal bureaucratic conditions.

There were other accomplishments, too.

Beginning with the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977, which many of you helped to draft, I acted to bring price supports and loan rates in line with production costs. I sought price levels to keep pace with rapidly rising production costs and adjusted them higher again within the last 3 months. We adopted a formula for target prices based on the cost of production for each crop. When that formula failed to adjust rapidly enough, we corrected it with new legislation.

In contrast to Republican vetoes, I moved quickly to restore health to the dairy industry. Within weeks of taking office, I increased the support level. And then, we worked with Congress to enact an 80-percent-of-parity minimum. Last year we extended this authority.

I moved quickly to improve our inadequate promotion of agricultural exports. We lowered overseas barriers to our farm exports with the new trade treaty concluded last year. We opened trade offices, under Bob Bergland's leadership, in key importing countries. We greatly increased export credits and have worked hand in hand with the private sector through the cooperator program. Perhaps most important, we carefully laid the foundation for opening important new markets in foreign countries, like in China.

To protect and preserve our basic soil and water resources, I signed into law the landmark Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act. The Republicans attempted to weaken the agricultural conservation program. I strengthened it. I increased support for agricultural research by nearly 50 percent in just 3 years. I also moved quickly with special help to farmers who suffered from natural disasters like this summer's heat and drought. We expanded to $6 billion the economic emergency loan program we began in 1978, and I just signed into law a new crop insurance program to protect farmers against weather, crop disease, and insect losses.

My administration has also supported farmer cooperatives. We defended the Capper-Volstead Act against those who wanted to gut it. We kept the administration of this vital authority in the hands of the Secretary of Agriculture where it belongs. We supported export ventures by farm cooperatives and got rid of regulations that kept cooperatives from participating fully in commodity loan programs. We also expanded and modernized farm credit programs, including a special program for beginning farmers. Of all the funds loaned by the Farmers Home Administration in its 45 years, nearly half have been loaned by this administration.

My administration has been especially sensitive both to agriculture's unique energy needs and to the opportunity for farmers to become producers of energy. I assigned the highest priority allocation of all during energy shortages to agriculture.

We passed the windfall profits tax over Republican opposition, and I established a program to provide over $10 billion during this decade to produce gasohol from the crops of American farms. When I took office production of gasohol was barely measurable. I set a production capacity target of 500 million gallons of alcohol by the end of next year, enough so that gasohol will amount to 10 percent of all unleaded gasoline sold in America. Secretary Bergland has just approved guarantees for 15 new plants to produce 246 million gallons of alcohol. The result of all this speaks for itself.

In the 4 years of my administration, total gross farm income, total net farm income, total production, total consumption, and total farm exports topped any previous record of any period in the history of this Nation. Farm exports, in dollars and in volume, have set new records in every single year of my administration. We'll set another record with an $8 billion increase in exports this year for a total $40 billion, the biggest annual gain in history.

We have broadened and diversified our exports so that markets will be more sound in the future, with changing circumstances. We've more than tripled sales to Mexico. We've increased our feed grain exports to Japan and Italy. We are now selling almost 7 times as much to China and to Taiwan as we did in 1976. In fact, China is now the world's largest single buyer of American cotton and one of the largest buyers of American grain.

The sharp drop in farm prices that we inherited in 1977—and think back on those years—has reversed. Despite record production, which ordinarily would drive farm prices down, prices have risen steadily in the last 4 years. Corn has gone from $1.60 in 1977 to over $3. Wheat has gone from $2 to over $4. Cattle prices have doubled, from $32 to $64. Milk that sold for less than $10 in 1977 now sells for more than $13.

I'm not completely satisfied with the record I've outlined to you. The cost freeze and squeeze on farmers has been severe and has limited net farm income too long. But we've made good progress, working with you as partners, and more progress is still to come.

In contrast to this, my Republican opponent does not understand the complex reality of our farm economy. Just a few months ago he said that he was not familiar with parity. He said farm price supports, and I quote him, "subsidize the inefficient." He said, and I quote again, "Dairy subsidies are subsidizing those who could not compete." To be fair, my opponent recently dropped a lifetime of opposition to government farm programs. He now says he would keep the basic elements of my programs in effect. And why not? The farm programs of this administration work. American farmers will have to decide how confident they are of Governor Reagan's election year conversion.

For the next 4 years I will propose even more forward-looking farm programs. We'll use the experience of the last 4 years to draft the 1981 farm bill—as you know, it's up for repassage next year—that responds to various farm needs, but most of all to the family farm. As before, we'll work with farmers and with your own organizations in developing the new proposals as we did in 1977 which will shape your economic lives.

We're going to continue to reduce government regulation in our economy, including agriculture. We'll push ahead on fuel conservation, gasohol, solar innovations. We need to improve transportation systems for getting farm products to market, and to that end I've authorized an effort to create farmer-run transportation co-ops much like rural electric co-ops. We're going to help farmers export even more, improving the links between market development and assistance to developing nations, and increasing promotion of value added products like meat, poultry, breeding animals, and soy bean products. We'll continue to protect our farmland and the productivity of its soil. And we'll continue our efforts to expand research and education.

Before closing, I want to say a few words about the most controversial farm issue of this election year—the suspension of grain sales to the Soviet Union.

In 1976 I promised America's farmers that I would resort to an embargo only if our national security or foreign policy interests were threatened, and never just to keep prices down. I kept my word.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan earlier this year, last year in winter, I saw this for what it was: brutal aggression with ominous implications for the security of that region and, indeed, the world.

As your President, I took immediate action. I curtailed Russian fishing rights in our waters. I stopped the sale of many high-technology products that the Soviets needed. I stopped phosphate sales to the Soviet Union. And I suspended the shipment of grain beyond that included under our official Government agreement with the Soviets, 8 million bushels (tons)1 per year.

1White House correction.

When I announced this, shortly before the Iowa caucuses, as a matter of fact, I told the American farmers we all would bear the costs—not just the farmers. I don't have any doubt that the farmers have borne the heaviest load. I recognize that. But we used tax dollars to remove from the market more grain than was originally scheduled to be sold to the Soviets. The net budget cost was less than $600 (million) . 2

2 White House correction.

I imposed restraints on trade with the Soviet Union for one simple reason. Their invasion of Afghanistan was brutal aggression which threatened the interests of the United States and the free world. These restrictions have hurt the Soviets, and they are going to continue to hurt as long as they are fighting and killing the people of Afghanistan.

The people of the Soviet Union are eating even less meat now than they did 5 years ago. They have less meat to eat in the Soviet Union than any other nation in all of Europe. Even their satellite countries are better off, and the Soviet situation is getting worse. This crop year they face a shortage of up to 60 million tons of grain, and they will not come close to making that up so long as the United States stands firm. And so long as Soviet aggression continues and the security threat exists, we will stand firm. We will continue to find more permanent and dependable customers for farm products to ensure that the American farmer does not suffer because of a lack of export opportunities.

My Republican opponent has tried to make political hay out of this decision. He claims to be opposed to the embargo. I think it's about time we look at the facts. The fact of the matter is that Governor Reagan publicly and directly opposed selling any grain whatsoever to the Soviet Union until he saw a chance to benefit politically from the decision that I had to make.

In 1975 he suggested using a grain embargo to force the Soviets out of Angola• In 1979 he threatened a similar grain embargo against Nigeria, the largest, most prosperous, and most influential country in Africa.

Three months before the invasion of Afghanistan, he said, and I quote, "If the Russians want to buy wheat from us, I would not sell it to them." The truth is that he never once raised his voice in opposition to the embargoes imposed under Mr. Nixon and Ford. And those embargoes were not imposed to protect our national interests. They were not directed against an aggressor nation. They were designed to do one thing and one thing only: to force down the prices American farmers get for your crops.

American farmers can decide now how much credit Mr. Reagan should get for reversing 5 years of public, unqualified support for food embargoes just in time for the election.

As I said at the beginning of this talk, the differences between me and my opponent, between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are great. They are not just differences in degree. They are deep differences that will affect the life of everyone listening to my voice. They pose to you an important question: Do you want to place the critical questions facing American agriculture—energy, price supports, export development, soil conservation, cooperatives, science, education—in the hands of a man who has not shown a basic grasp of our farm economy? Or do you choose another like future, guided by the steady and experienced leadership of someone like you, a farmer, working with Bob Bergland, a farmer, and with farm organizations and you, the farmers of this Nation, who understand the problems and opportunities which are existing now before other American farmers who are not here today?

I want to strengthen our farm economy-for your sake, yes, but also for the sake of all the American people. I'm asking you for another 4 years as your President to continue to accomplish that worthy goal. I need your help on November 4.

Thank you very much. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:58 a.m. in the Schaller residence.

Jimmy Carter, Waterville Township, Ohio Remarks to Area Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251696

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives