Letters to the Editor. The plow and the cow
H. Thomas Johnson is correct when he likens the current agricultural situation to that of the 1920s [``Today's farm crisis: an echo of the 1920s,'' Nov. 25]. His evaluation of New Deal agricultural policy is, however, faulty when he writes that price-support and acreage limitation programs have failed to prevent rural financial distress.
The failure is not in the New Deal agricultural policy itself, but in not consistently implementing those policies and practices.
The truth is that when New Deal agricultural policy has not been followed, most notably during the Eisenhower and Reagan administrations, agriculture has consequently suffered by putting farming back on a ``free market'' status. When the statistics are examined closely, the clear results of both of these attempts has been reduced commodity prices, farm foreclosures, and increased government expenditures.
Although speculation on land value can be seen as one of the causes, it is not the ``true cause'' of the current situation. The current situation has its deepest roots in the policies of the '70s that not only encouraged farmers to plant fence row to fence row, but would even foot a significant portion of the bill to tear up the fence rows and windbreaks. These policies attempted to pay for our petroleum import habit with agricultural exports. Daryl Nelson Diller, Neb.
The opinion column by H. Thomas Johnson, and the editorial ``Hold the line for farms,'' Nov. 25, are fine examples of articles on rural America and the ``farm crisis.''
It is actually a ``rural America and related business crisis,'' and specifically, a ``cattlemen's crisis.'' The programs designed to help the grain farmers actually hurt the economic position of the cattlemen. Since the days of the Homestead Act, when farmers were given land and no such provision was made for cattlemen, national farm policy has favored the man with the plow over the man with the cow. Stuart E. Jenkins Newport Beach, Calif.
Mr. Johnson uses poor reasoning in his column. There is nothing wrong with a farmer borrowing at the most favorable interest to stay in business. But he does gamble on two things: the weather, and the expectancy that the market price for his products will be more than the cost of production. The latter should not be a gamble.
Johnson indicates the government's programs for eliminating surpluses through acreage limitations have not worked. Yet these cuts have not been deep enough.
To allow the farmer to produce a surplus for which there is no need and then ask the taxpayer to buy up that surplus is obvious folly. T. V. Anderson Evanston, Ill.