President Nixon and his Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Lauer Butz.
In one of many of Richard Nixon’s campaign addresses on the American economy, the Presidential candidate addressed the necessity of reforming the nation’s abused agricultural system in a speech delivered in Iowa on September 14, 1968. The decade of the 60s saw a nation with the greatest agricultural producers thrown into submission by intentional economic squeezes–their fruitful labor exploited to offset fiscal excesses in other areas of government.
During the past decade his taxes have gone up 78 percent, his labor costs 46 percent, his machinery costs 30 percent, his debt interest 59 percent. Everything he has to buy has gone up; everything he has to sell has gone down. The parity ration has shriveled to a mere 74 percent–the lowest since the darkest days of the depression. -Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon Speaks Out
Quickly becoming an unsustainable business venture, farming in the United States needed re-working–not a complete revolution of the agricultural system, as RN quipped, but a “move with prudence and deliberation toward improved programs that [would] shore up the foundations of agriculture and assure its long-term vigor, strength, and prosperity.”
RN proposed in his 1968 campaign an expansive list of policy points that he aimed to implement as President: support for policies that enlarge the farmer’s opportunity to manage his own affairs, a sound Federal Crop Insurance program, assistance to farm cooperatives, responsible management of the nation’s economic policies, to name a few.
Five years after RN addressed the issue of a faltering agricultural system while campaigning for the presidency, the Nixon administration and Congress converged in compromise with a bill that promised an efficient and prosperous national farm policy.
Read a White House Fact Sheet of the 1973 Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act below:
Below, read President Nixon’s statement upon signing the Act:
The premise of the 1973 Farm Bill was for establishing new price guarantees for American farmers. It would mean that farmers could expand production without fear of reciprocating price depression, a policy contrary to the one instituted for the better part of the past 35 years. The bill also authorized disaster payments and disaster reserve inventories, created the Rural Environmental Conservation Program, and amended the Food Stamp Act of 1964.
The problems of the nation’s agricultural system struck a cord in all corners of American society. A letter written by the Governor of Massachusetts, Francis Sargent, illustrates this point.
In thought-provoking fashion, Governor Sargent urged the administration to advance a farm program which would encourage rather than discourage production. The White House responded in kind:
Associate Director of the Domestic Council, Richard Fairbanks, assured the governor that the administration was committed to achieving reasonable income for farmers from the marketplace and not from government subsidies. Three days later, farm legislation which had recently passed the Congress made its way to the desk of President Nixon.