the Farm Problem
Senator Allen J. Ellender (D-La.), right, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture
and Forestry, presents for readers of Facts
Forum News the basic provisions of the farm
bill approved by the Committee, and in the
following article tells why it differed from
the President's farm plan.
JUDGING from the political sharpshooting that followed the reporting of the Senate Agriculture Committee's 1956 farm bill, one would think that "90 per
•fcnt of parity" is an evil phrase, one that portends more
■Stress for our sagging farm economy.
Unfortunately, that is the impression being spoon-fed
'" the average American citizen; it is fostered by those
•>ho refuse to be realistic and who advocate an agricultural philosophy which will lead to even more shrunken
'•'nn income. This, incidentally, is inevitable unless some-
"nig concrete is done now.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
''''1 not adopt a two-year extension of rigid 90 per cent of
Parity price supports for political reasons. On the con-
.r;»'y, the 8-7 vote which reinstated high price supports
deluded three Republicans and five Democrats. The
Proportion of the membership voting against the proposal
1*85 similarly divided: four Republicans and three Demo-
nts voted "Nay."
Why, then, did the Committee feel that rigid price
M,Pports should be reinstated?
The reason is a simple one, and tit the same time, a
repelling one. Net farm income has dropped nearly
*> 'iillion since 1951 - from $14.8 billion to S10 billion in
" third quarter of 1955. The farmer's share of the con-
S'""ei's dollar silent for food products fell from 48 cents
1,1 1951 to 39 cents in December of 1955. During approxi-
I j'h'ly that same period, net corporate profits and total
*°or income increased by $3.5 billion and $46.5 billion
It was the considered judgment of the committee that
. n"-'ss immediate steps were taken to bolster falling farm
'"me, the depressed state of American agriculture would
<r('a<l into and infect other segments of our economy.
I ^ e considered a number of ways to increase farm
''"me. and increase it substantially and immediately. We
*Cts font \i News, April. 19,56
found that as to the basic commodities only one — an
immediate increase in price support levels—would achieve
the desired end, short of outright subsidy payments which
neither the farmer nor the Congress desired. In the hope
of bolstering farm prices of non-basics, including livestock, we have recommended an appropriation of one-
quarter billion dollars to supplement Section 32 funds.
(These funds are used to purchase surplus perishable
commodities for use in the school lunch and similar
The question has frequently been raised, "Why did
not the committee confine its bill to recommendations in
the President's farm message?
The soil bank, the (heat Plains program, the rural redevelopment program — till suggested to the Congress by
President Eisenhower — will bring some good over a
long-term period. By permitting acres to remain idle, they
will doubtless result in reducing our carry-over in most
crops now in surplus, and thereby cause market prices to
rise, if enough time elapses. But our farmers cannot wait
two years or five years for relief: thev need help now,
and immediate assistance is what the Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry voted to extend to them.
It should be noted that the immediate increase in
price support levels does not stand alone in the suggested
farm program; included also were the long-range programs recommended by the President — and they were
included for good reason.
It should also be noted that the inclusion of mandatory 90 per cent of parity price supports for five of the six
basic commodities is limited to a two-year period. It is
our hope that at the expiration of this period, the decline
in farm income will have been effectively halted, that the
long-range programs outlined by the President and included in the Committee's bill will have taken hold, and
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