APRIL 24, 1957
LAWTON, Okla.—I am beginning to wonder if Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson really believes some of the things he says, for apparently they can be so easily disproved.
Not long ago he told a Republican women's conference in Washington, D.C., that "the truth is that on a nationwide basis, realized net farm income last year....was four percent above 1955."
As a matter of fact, I am told that net farm income after inventory adjustments was $100 million less in 1956 than in 1955.
In 1952 farm income was $15.1 billion, but by 1956 it had dropped to $11.6 billion. This brought the average farm income per capita $8 lower in 1956 than in 1955.
If the consumers were benefiting by the drop in farm prices, there would be at least one group that would be better off. But food prices fell only two percent between 1952 and 1956 while farm income dropped 17 percent.
The food processors seem to have been a little at fault because, while they could buy farm products for 17 percent less than in 1952, they reduced prices to retailers by only six percent. Chain store food retailers paid seven percent less for processed food in 1956 than in 1952, but they gave the consumer the benefit of only a 2½ percent reduction.
But Mr. Benson said in a speech last winter:
"The record production of food and fibre from the farms of America has provided consumers in this country with the highest level diet in history and at reasonable prices....
The major benefits of our vastly expanded agricultural productivity has accrued to the nation as a whole rather than to the farmers as a group. Agricultural abundance has held down prices paid by the consumers for food and fibre..."
When I was in Japan, I repeatedly heard how resentful the farmers of that country were because our military bases were occupying so much of their farm land. But I never expected to hear the same complaint in the U.S.A.!
I have a letter, however, from Racine, Wis., in which I am told that our military establishment has just taken 6,000 acres of the most valuable farm land for a jet base in Racine and Kenosha Counties.
My correspondent tells me that this is supposed to be some of the most fertile land in the world, with topsoil rich and deep and from which there are enormous agricultural yields.
The writer is a lawyer himself, but he evidently is disturbed by the reports from farmers in the area because, he says, it seems we should try to use land which is not our best for farming for military purposes.
There are plenty of areas in this country which are nonproductive—more or less desert areas—and yet, he says, just a few years ago the Wisconsin Dells were used in the same way.