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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (May 1, 1921)
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Agricultural Problem, the
K&ddress given ;by Senator B. P. Ladd of
th Dakota before the Student Conference
iquet held at Harvard University, Cambridge,
., on the. evening of April 2, 1921, for the
ose of organizing an Intercollegiate. Stu-
8 Liberal Club of America.)
Bsterday we extolled the farmer as the very
one of the' nation, tho Gibraltar against
h the waves of discontent and radicalism
t dash without harm to our democracy or
udermining of our national welfare.
oday the same farmer in some sections is
ed upon as a Bolshevik, a Socialist, under-
irtg and destroying" our very national exist-
and there is no question but what there
reat discontent among the farmers for prices
111 farm products have dropped but of all
rtion to the. cost of dther products or to
cost of production and the farmer is on the
by this sudden change of front Has tho
erover night been transformed from the
dy individualistic yeoman of our land to a
rerous citizen organized to overthrow the
ernment and destroy American liberty, whicjbi
as for two hundred years helped to build
nd which he has fought to make safe, or
t is the trouble?
p., the farmer stands where he has always
a lover of freedom,, a man who believes
practices what he preaches. Justice for all,
1 privilege for none. He believes that all
economic loss and that loss should there
borne by all in proportion to their ability
r the tax and should no longer be placed
fcvily on the producers.
two thousand years the farmer has borne
nt of the load in all lands and agriculture
en penalized -more and more to nromote
fracture and commerce and the farmer in
irtion to his abilitv has Harried tho hfiaw
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tfclc' about 1870 we began to legislate to
rage manufactures and commerce and in
g so we often penalized agriculture to pro-
t. the others and for the past twenty years
culture has rapidly declined. In New York
along during that period the number of
I declined by 22,500,
farmer still constitutes about 35 per
of our nation's "population and tho farm is
largest manufacturing plant or producer in
(United States and the largest single em-"
r of labor in this country, The farmer
fee past, largely Individualistic in his habits,
ess and thinking, at last finds himself no
er able as an individual to cope' with or-
ed business so developed because of this
ization as to be able to dictate very largely
il the producer shall receive for his output
'at the same time determine the terms upon
the consumer shall be able to purchase
necessities, of life.
was no less a person than Sir William
kes, who more thairthirty years ago Warned
n tne united states tnat we too wouia race
Ration conditions in the distant future and
imiled as we do today. But few realizo that
congested east is not ten days away from
X in the main necessities Qf life. Two weeks
supply cut off, New York would bo without
'r, butter and other necessities, yet we are the
est producing nation per capita on earth.
v farmers have solved the problem of pro-
"on at a minimum cost per unit of labor.
gnavo increased production and the farmer
generously responded to .the nation's call,
the more the farmer produced the greater
been his loss for the . prices have been
mmered down at the marketing end for the
ucers and forced up at tho retail end -until '
consumer rebels and cannot afford to buy
ordinary necessities of life.
rhat's tho cause? , .-
e have developed the 'most complete market-
system ever devised by human intellect, but
the same time the most expensive the world
ever known, we ship a. hog 1,500 miles to
fconverte4 into pork and lard to bo again re
ed for consumption-.' to tho community
re it was produced. Is that good business?
ur transportation systems are groaning under
load placed upon them by the long. haul
Roughly developed "by , the railroads them
selves and they have now made. tho. rates prac
tically prohibitive. Why should western North
Dakota ship its wheat six hundred miles to
Minneapolis to be transformed into flour and
mill feed to be returned over the very same road
to the point of production to be consumod in the
form of bread or converted into dairy products
and beef animals to go through a like joy ride?
'What is tho trouble?
Too many middle men, many of whom can
only .be classed as parasites taking the profits
from the producer and adding an unnecessary
burden' upon the consumer. Our eastern cities
do not understand the farmer's problem ,and
point a linger of stforn at what they term the
"country rube." America's largest jisset and
greatest manufacturing plant.
Has the farmer a grievance?
It is predicted that within ten years under
present conditions we shall come to be a largo
importing nation of food products, including
wheat, dairy products, meats, woqI, etc, when
in reality we could easily produce enough to
feed and clothe three times our present popula
tion if agriculture was afforded anything like
the aid and encouragement she, from her rank,
is entitled to receive.
Agriculture is on the decline, is rapidly de
creasing, proper credit is not available for tho
farmer's needs, agriculture has, during tho past
year, been discriminated against by financial in
terests including even the Federal Reserve bank
while the Federal Land Loan Bank was tied up
by its opponents.
Transportation charges placed the farmer at
a disadvantage. The grain exchanges and the
markets for agricultural products are controlled
by unfriendly influences and the grain specula
tors have the support of the banks in marketing
matters in preference to the farmer. -
We lack adequate laws to enable the farmers
to cooperatively market their products while
the grain exchanges are. so organised as to -exclude
the farmers from using them.
" Here wo have just a few of tho many hin
drances to a proper development of a profitable
agriculture that can function under existing con
ditions I have not the time to go further into
details, but I trust some of the keen young minds
among my hearers will familiarize themselves
wityi these and other agricultural and rural
There is no finer Held for service when ap
proached from the angle and viewpoint of the "
farmer and not from the angle of the grain
exchanges or the group who profit at the ex-
pense of tho farmer and to the detriment of so
ciety and the nation.
During the war the price of the farmer's,
staple crop of wheat which determines the price
for all other cereals was,. by order of the gov
ernment, fixed while the price of all products
required by the farmer was unregulated and un- .
like other manufacturers he made no great
money, only a fair profit taken as a whole, and
nowwith his 1920 crop he was forced to pro
duce it on a high cost basis and then to sell
at practically prewar prices. The consumer was
not benefited by this transaction. Government
reports and statistics indicate, for example, that
. the4 exporter paid for the approximate 300,000,
000 bushels of wheat sold for export or already
exported from 30c to 40c per bushel above the
1919 prevailing price., or a minimum of $90,
000,000 more than for the same amount of 1919
wheat which the farmer sold for 70c to $1.20 per
bushel below the price received for his 1919
cr.pp of wheat. The Increased cost for trans
portation under the Esch-Cummins act could,
not have exceeded $00,000,000.
Then who Is benefited-by this short-changing
of the farraera to the extent of not less than
$240,000,000 on the export wheat alone in 1920?
Not the poor starving millions of Europe but a
few parasites of society as profiteers.
Farmers of Michigan received 50c per bushel
for apples on the Chicago market this past fall
while on the same street tile apples were being
retailed at 8c per pound or $4.00 per bushel.
If the farmer grows, picks, sorts, packs, pays
the freight and sells at 50c per busehl, why
should it cost $3.50 to transfer those apples from
one end of the street to the other and into the
hands of the consuming public?-
The farmer receives not to exceed $1.50 for
tho wool entering Into a suit of clothes for which
I am obliged to pay from $80 to $12G. A littio
investigation will corivlnco one that such is not
satisfactory to cither the producer or tho con
sumer. Tho farmer has a grievance as well a
the consuming public and, as indicated, this in
due In a largo measure to our present system of
marketing, controlled and manipulated too
largely in tho interests of a non-productive class
of society, and as Ross has said, the moanost man
1n tho business sots tho pace for all the rest who
must soon fall In lino or bo snuffed out of busi
ness. It is said that 13,000,000 tons of eastern,
Ohio and Pennsylvania coal woro contracted for
this past fall to supply tho throe northwestern
states, mainly from Duluth. At tho mines that
cotfl was sold at a price that should have war
ranted Its being dolivorod at Duluth under ex
isting conditions at not to exceed an average
price of $7.50 per ton while avo in North Dakota
paid from $18 to $24 per ton for tho samo coal
while tho profiteers were cloanlng up not less
than $50,000,000 from those throo agricultural
In 1.916 the farmers of tho samo states re
ceived $30,000,000 loss for their wheat than
they were entitled to and tho consumer did not
benefit thereby. In other words, the non-pro-dtfeor
pocketed the money and thereby injured
society that these privileged few might contlnuo
as unncessary appendages of society.
What is the romody?
Organization, cooperation, a proper apprecia
tion of business methods and protection of tho
interests of agriculture to tho samo extent as
are other Industries protected. This nation
prospers or fails in proportion just as agriculture
succeeds or fails to net tho farmer a living wage
and enable him to raise his standard of living to
that enjoyed by tho business man in town.
Agriculture is a business just as fully as is
banking or tho manufacture of woolen goods,
shoes, etc., and to succeed requires a higher de
gree of skill than that needed to manage a bank,
to conduct a successful mercantile business or a
manufacturing plant to turn out reapers or bind
ers, Those of us who knew, tho farm of forty or.
fifty years ago and have not followed the de
tails of the changes taking place, of the demands
made upon the majority of tho farmers, are; as
far behind the times as is tho man who would
dopend upon tho ox team in this day Instead of
The most of us are largely In that position.
The farmers of tho great central west havo
awakened, are now organized and are preparing
to put into operation a new marketing system
owned, controlled, financed and operated by
themselves. They purpose to do away with all
forms of gambling and speculation in the neces
sities of life. They feel that the old Louisiana
lottery as" a gambling iniquity was as mild and
Innocuous as a church bazaar as compared with
the Chicago grain exchange on which there U
sold every year more speculative wheat than
jtho entire amount of grain produced in tht
United States. The other grain exchanges ar
doing the same thing, we are told, and for overs
bushel of wheat produced In this country ninety
nine are sold through speculative deals and yet
we are told this speculation is the great stabiK
izer of prices, the cushion, as it were, that pre?
vents sudden fluctuations and yet a daily change
of from 15c to 20c is not rare by any means.
I would not havo it understood for one moment
that I would do away with legitimate hedging ob
tho cash sales on the terminal markets or on tbg
grain exchanges. Other and more important fac
tors are kept in the background by those whd
are defending grain speculation or they are un
informed as to what is taking place.
The farmer's output must be sold in an order
ly fashion as needed -throughout tho year and
not all within a few weeks of its harvesting atf
is the case, for example, at the present time with
wheat. Tho output must be regulated so thai
only a moderate surplus shall be produced and
carried over from one year to another. The
great cooperative movement furnishes one of th
most fruitful fields for a young man to familiar
ize himself with during tho next generation.
Some of tho things that we should give atten
tion to may be briefly indicated in tho follow
ing: " i. I should like to see a law enacted that
would give the farmer and consumer the right
to legally combine for cooperative selling and
buying with no less protection and with no
more privileges than are now afforded cor
porations or mpnopolies.
2. Wo should have a commodity law that re
quires truthful labeling of every article,
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