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The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Abbitt, a member of this subcommittee, has authored a similar measure which is applicable to the Carolina-Virginia area, as opposed to the Southeast which enjoys certain comparative advantages. The two bills are not irreconcilable and in many instances attempt to correct the inequities, which I believe are recognized to exist by members of this committee, the Department of Agriculture and all others who have looked with any objectivity in comparing the status of the three major peanut-producing areas of the country.
We here in the Congress have learned from past experience that it is necessary we lend one another fullest cooperation in order to protect the peanut program. We have recognized by uneasy experience that the peanut program, as such, is constantly in jeopardy, and that we needed one another at all times to maintain a fair position for our people in the business of raising and shelling peanuts.
The Southwestern growers and shellers have recognized this position and have sacrificed considerable of their rights and legitimate demands to these facts of life. We are not of a mind to disturb that cooperation, but we are to the point of no return and simply cannot continue at the disadvantage we now suffer.
Mr. Chairman, we are being priced out of the peanut market because of the differential of almost $6 a ton now applied between the Southwest Spanish and the Southeast Runners. We are in desperate circumstances and must come before this committee to beg of you to give us relief by lawful instructions to the Department of Agriculture. We are no longer willing to remain silent under the pressure that action at this time may place in further jeopardy the entire peanut program. We recognize this as a fact and would not be here today with this plea if there was any reasonable way to avert it.
In addition, Mr. Chairman, there are other provisions of H. R. 12545 which we believe will greatly improve the opportunities for peanut growers and shellers. We believe the self-help plan proposed in this bill will in time remove some of the criticism constantly voiced against the peanut program by those who would destroy it. We believe the losses now experienced under the direct support program would be drastically reduced, that it would give greater freedom of operation to growers and shellers; that it is workable; and that the program as we now know it would be largely placed in the hands of the farms themselves. Mr. Sydney Reagan and Mr. Ross Wilson, representing the Southwest growers and shellers, will develop this point and others more fully in their testimony.
Mr. Chairman, let me repeat that we have not the slightest desire to impose any unreasonable conditions upon the growers and the shellers of the Southeast. Contrarily, certainly we wish to help and cooperate with all other areas as we have in the past, if for no other reason that it is to our own advantage. If what we are asking in this legislation can be successfully proved unfair or without merit, then we will do as we have in the past, cooperate as long as our people are in business; but the time is here when either the farmers of our area must stop producing and move off their farms, and the shellers go out of business because we cannot continue the downgrade we are on by reason of the inequities now imposed upon us.
I sincerely hope that this committee will approve the provision of H. R. 12545 and will make it a part of any omnibus farm bill which may be produced in this session of the Congress.
Mr. MERRILL. In my opinion, no, sir; they do not. You go out and establish an allotment for them. They will plant these peanuts and harvest them and they will think, "The peanut farmer has got a good deal," and so they go in and they grow 5 acres of peanuts.
Now, they do not have the equipment to take care of the peanuts and they have not had the experience in growing peanuts and quite a number of them will decide after 1 year's experience, "It is not quite as good a deal as I thought," so they will not plant them again.
But it takes 3 years during normal times for that allotment to disappear if a man is not using it and under current legislation it is absolutely preserved and charged against other farms.
Mr. GATHINGS. Take the acreage away from the established grower in that county and continue to give that man an allotment for 3 years even though he might not be interested in growing peanuts?
Mr. MERRILL. Well, under the automatic preservation, you see, you cannot take it away from him.
In the past, back in, say, 1951, if this should happen, then several years later, 3 years later he would have automatically gotten out of the peanut allotment business because he had not produced any peanuts during the 3-year period as prescribed by the law.
The perfect example of what you are talking about, I think, is this year in one particular State over 100 farmers who had never grown peanuts decided they wanted to go into the peanut business.
We received a report from that State last week and of the 176 acres and I believe my figures are correct-of the 176 acres of peanuts that were planted, only 4 acres were harvested.
Mr. MATTHEWs. Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question or two here? Mr. MCMILLAN. Yes.
Mr. MATTHEWS. Mr. Gathings has pursued a line of questioning that I know all the members of the subcommittee are especially interested in, and I would like to pursue it for just a minute or two more.
I think what he brought out is our concern naturally about hurting the little farmer; and my colleagues on the committee know-and I know I speak for you gentlemen, too-that I certainly do not want to do anything to hurt the little farmer; and even at this late date, if I thought that it would, I would not press for the passage of this bill.
Is it your understanding, Mr. Merrill, that if this legislation is passed a man could still plant his 1 acre of peanuts without any allotment?
Mr. MERRILL. That is absolutely right.
Mr. MATTHEWS. And most of your little farmers would probably be interested in just that aspect of it. They would want to plant 1 acre of peanuts and most of them would not be concerned, as I see it, about going into peanut production on a larger scale. Do you think that is a true statement, Mr. Merrill?
Mr. MERRILL. Yes, sir; in my opinion it is true.
Mr. MATTHEWS. Now, if this legislation were passed, a farmer who had not produced peanuts before could qualify, but only on the basis of a new farm?
Mr. MERRILL. That is right.
Mr. MATTHEWS. The one basic difference in the present situation and what the situation would be if this legislation were passed is that he could not qualify for an allotment purely on the basis of having planted it the year before?
Let me say at the start, Mr. Chairman, that for sure I would not want to do anything which might jeopardize the status of the peanut industry as a basic commodity under the act; however, for many years now I know that the peanut growers of the Southwest have felt that they have been discriminated against by acreage allotments, grades, and price-support programs under the act.
During the most recent years, the Southwest Spanish-type peanut has been priced out of the market to the disadvantage of the growers and shellers. My people are of the firm conviction that the enactment of H. R. 12545 will go a long way toward correcting many inequities and will assist them in gaining an equal opportunity to market their peanuts on the same basis as other areas of the country. It is for this reason that I strongly recommend that this committee give favorable consideration to the reporting of this bill in order that the House can work its will in behalf of this segment of our agricultural economy. Mr. MCMILLAN. Mr. Thornberry.
STATEMENT OF HON. HOMER THORNBERRY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. THORNBERRY. I will associate myself with my colleague, Mr. Burleson, but I recognize there is a great deal to what Mr. Sikes says. I think all of us should try to work together on a program to try to solve some of these problems which the peanut growers face. I do not think it is possible for any of us familiar with the situation to say that the situation is as it ought to be. I am a little familiar with the situation facing the peanut growers in my area. I have a great deal of sympathy with the problem they face and I am of course determined to do whatever I can to be effective in helping them. I do not think we should find ourselves at loggerheads with each other. There has to be some patience and understanding between us.
I am here to express my interest in the overall problem and appreciate the committee going into it.
MCMILLAN. Mr. Forrester.
STATEMENT OF HON. E. L. FORRESTER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF GEORGIA
Mr. FORRESTER. In a few minutes I have to go to the Judiciary Committee, responding to the call of the chairman of our Rules Committee and a great Virginian, the Honorable Howard Smith. We have some mighty constructive work over there to attempt to do this morning. Nevertheless, I would like to have you indulge me a minute or two and let me register my most vigorous opposition to this legislation.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I think I can say truthfully that I represent the largest peanut area in the United States. I do not think anyone comes close to me unles it be my neighbor, John Pilcher, of the Second District of Georgia.
This is not just a crop that to some extent affects our economy. As a matter of fact, down where I live, Mr. Chairman, it is virtually our farming economy. So now I am tremendously interested in the peanut situation over the United States. Let me say this to you. Since I have been in Congress, 2 or 3 times have we been met over there
on the floor with determined opposition to destroy the peanut program. It would seem to me it would be utterly foolhardy for the small band of Congressmen who represent peanut areas to go over upon the floor and battle for any peanut legislation at this time. Either 14 or 16, I do not remember which, represents the Members of the Congress who are interested in peanuts and have peanuts in their congressional districts. That is a might small number when you operate upon the idea that we have 435 Members of Congress. I have seen these vicious attacks made upon the floor and the last time-there is not a one here who does not remember it-on the teller vote we were absolutely defeated. Had there not been a lot of work done during the night, we would have lost the entire peanut program. I remember on the rollcall vote we saved peanuts as 1 of the 6 basic crops by 8 votes.
Now, gentlemen, I just simply cannot be a party to putting upon the block the future of the peanut growers in my area and in your areas. There are lots of things we could say about this legislation but primarily what I am trying to say to the Members who are interested in peanuts is this: For God's sake, let peanuts alone now. You cannot win. We just simply stand to lose. In my opinion if we are going to try to render effective representation to our people, I think we should know when it is time to halt as well as to know when it is time to attempt to act.
That is a thought I want to get over. I want to register my complete objection to our attempting to bring any peanut legislation out on the floor this year of any kind whatever.
But before I leave I do want to say to the chairman that we have with us this morning my colleague, John Pilcher, and I will say in behalf of John Pilcher that I doubt seriously that there is a man in the Congress who is sounder or knows more about agriculture than John Pilcher, my friend and my colleague and my next-door neighbor. John will certainly have a fine contribution to make to this subcommittee this morning as he discusses this peanut legislation.
In addition to that, we have the president of our Georgia Farm Bureau, Hon. John Duncan, who wants the privilege of appearing before you.
Additionally, we have a distinguished former member of the House of Representative, a man who is from the district that I have the honor to represent at this time. He considers this legislation of such importance and the defeat of this legislation of such importance that he has come up here from Americus, Ga., and he wants the privilege of testifying before you this morning.
We have Hon. Walter Randolph, president of the Alabama Farm Bureau, and I am satisfied that there are representatives from Florida.
Mr. MATTHEWS. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. FORRESTER. Yes.
Mr. MATTHEWS. The president of the Florida Farm Bureau sent his regrets but said he wanted to be associated with the gentleman from Georgia and they could speak 100 percent for the peanut growers of Florida.
Mr. FORRESTER. So far as any farm program is concerned, you should look at that from an overall picture. In lots of phases in this
agricultural program we do not think we are getting exactly what might be coming to us. But we think even then we are doing a whole lot better under our farm program than if we did not have a farm program. We are willing, for the time being at least, in order to try to preserve the situation as is, to go along with some of the burdens we think we are assuming and have been assuming for some time. I wanted to inject that.
Mr. Chairman, if you will excuse me now, I will go on over to my committee. I appreciate the opportunity of appearing before you. Mr. MCMILLAN. Thank you, Mr. Forrester.
Mr. Pilcher, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. J. L. PILCHER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF GEORGIA
Mr. PILCHER. First I want to say I do not know how to get up and oppose what Mr. Abbitt and Mr. Burleson have put in. I do not believe I have ever disagreed with them on a single bill before. But I want to concur in what the Congressman from Florida and my colleague from Georgia, Mr. Forrester, had to say.
In March the peanut section of the Georgia Farm Bureau had a meeting. They passed resolutions that they did not want any peanut legislation at this time. A few days later the shellers of that area had a meeting and adopted unanimously the same resolution that our growers adopted. By the way, our growers were represented by the Florida and Georgia growers. A little later the Alabama growers met and adopted the same resolution.
I am one who believes that we cannot afford to get to fighting among ourselves, not only on peanuts but on tobacco, dairy, wheat, corn. If these bills are introduced in order to get tied onto some omnibus farm bill that might come up this time or some special legislation, I think we are going to find ourselves all crossed up, section against section, commodity against commodity, and it is not going to be good for the agricultural people anywhere in the United States. I think if we ever get any farm legislation, it has to represent all of the basic crops.
If you want to put it on a selfish standpoint, you take tobacco in my section. We have a far better case to present to a committee of this House on tobacco than these peanut boys have. The type tobacco raised in Georgia last year, there was less than six-tenths of 1 percent of it that went into the Stabilization Corporation, whereas 21 percent of the North Carolina tobacco went into the Stabilization Corporation. Even though the Carolina tobacco has to be tied and our tobacco untied, our tobacco brought 4 cents a pound more than the North Carolina tobacco last year.
Even with that, I have told my tobacco growers I would not introduce legislation unless I was forced to get the tobacco growers fighting among tobacco growers.
We are having a hard enough time when we all try to stick together, not only in the South but in the West and in the North. I think that agriculture has to stick together all the way down the line. I just think that special bills like this that favor one special section are harmful not only to the peanut industry but harmful to the entire agricultural program. Thank you.