Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969

Author: Richard M. Nixon  | Date: December 8, 1969

Remarks at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
December 8, 1969

President Shuman, Secretary Hardin, all of the distinguished guests who are here on the platform, and all of the distinguished delegates and guests here in the audience:

It is a very great honor for me to appear before this 50th anniversary meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation. I have just come from rural America. I have been to Camp David and just gotback a few minutes ago.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to drop by on this occasion. I say drop by, because I have not prepared a formal speech. I thought that the Secretary of Agriculture could take care of that phase of my activities.

But I did not want this occasion to pass without coming before this organization and, through you, to speak to rural America, to the farmers of this Nation and those in related agricultural activities.

I would begin with rather a blunt statement. I think there is a tendency these days to make agriculture the whipping boy for many of our problems. We hear a lot of talk about farm subsidies and parity and all the rest. We hear very little talk about how it came about, that the reason that farmers have the present problems they have is because they made their investments at the request of government and as a result of the initiative of government, in order to increase agriculture production at a certain time.

Also, as we look at those problems, we overlook another very important, it seems to me, conclusion; one that was emphasized by a convention which preceded yours, incidentally, in this city just a few days ago. It was the first convention of its type in the history of this country, the first White House conference in the history of America on hunger in the United States.

Four thousand people came from all over the United States, and that conference made recommendations—recommendations for action by the President, action by the Department of Agriculture and other departments of Government, and action by the Congress of the United States.

There were differences of opinion within the conference as to what that action should be but only as to degree. Some thought that the guarantee that the Government should provide as a floor under the income of all Americans and particularly as a floor under their income as far as the ability to purchase necessary food was concerned, should be higher than others thought. But there was no difference at all about, first, the need for some action in that field and, second and even more important, the fact that we had the capacity to do the job.

Let’s look at America today. Let’s compare the situation in America with other nations in the world. This is one of the few nations in the world where the United States can make a decision that we are going to provide an adequate diet for everyone in this country and be able to do it, and we could not do it if it were not for the American farmer, so let’s give credit where credit is due.

And so we look at the great agricultural community of this country and what do we find? Only 5 percent are actually engaged in agriculture, and, of course, you know and you have heard that because you are only 5 percent that your political influence is not as great as it maybe once was.

Well, let’s look at it another way. As I look at that 5 percent of America, I find that it produces enough food to feed all of the American people and feed them well, and enough in addition to provide the means whereby the United States can aid other countries around the world.

Look at what we have done since World War II alone: $30 billion in food distributed to other countries around the world—some gifts, some loans—but nevertheless provided, provided out of our surplus. This is a magnificent achievement,an achievement again which is due to the productivity, the efficiency, the dynamism of the American farm community.

And so I say to you today that I am very proud as the President of the United States to recognize American agriculture for what it has achieved, for what it means to America. No nation can long be great without a sound, strong, agricultural base. This is true of virtually all the great nations of the world. It is even true of a nation like Japan, which has very little, certainly, land which is arable, and yet has a strong agriculture. But it, of course, is doubly true of the United States of America.

Agriculture has been at the foundation of our economic strength from the time of our beginning and all of our plans for the future will depend upon having a strong, healthy agriculture. This administration is going to see to it that we have that kind of agriculture throughout this Nation’s history.

We can have differences of opinion, of course, as to how that can be achieved. But we will welcome, as the Secretary of Agriculture has indicated in his remarks, your recommendations, the recommendations of others, but the goal is the same, the commitment is sure and the commitment is firm.

I would like to go a step further, however. I have talked about agriculture and the American farm in terms of the production of food. I would like to talk about agriculture and American farmers in terms that are much broader than that.

I have learned from appearing before this organization and other farm organizations on several occasions that you are interested not only in the production of farm commodities, efficiency and the like, and the Government programs that may relate to that production, but you are interested in all the problems of America. You want a program that will bring peace and keep peace for America. You want a program that will provide for the young people of America the idealism, the challenge that is needed if this Nation is to survive as a great nation.

So, at a time when you are 50 years of age and looking back, there is naturally a tendency, a welcome tendency for you, at this very important time in your history, which has never happened before and never will happen again, for you to look forward, to look forward not just to the next crop season, not just to the next 2 years or 4 years, but down to the end of the century.

What kind of a country is this going to be, and what kind of a country it will be is a decision that you will help to make. You have noted that early in this administration we set up an Urban Affairs Council because of the fact that we have many problems in our cities.

Just recently, during the last month, we have set up a Rural Affairs Council. I will tell you why we did so: first, because while great numbers of people, approximately 150 million people, by definition, live in what is called urban America, at least 50 million, maybe as many as 75 million—depending upon your definition of what a large and a small city is—live in rural America.

So, this is a very important segment of our country, and it is important, therefore, that a national administration have a program to deal with the problems of rural America as well as urban America.

We are doing some very exciting thinking in this direction. We want your views, your views as to how we can contributeand you can contribute to a better life, to raising the quality of life all over America and particularly in rural America.

Look ahead to the end of this century. There are 200 million Americans now. By the end of the century there will be 300 million. Where are those 100 million going to be? You can’t pour them into New York, into Los Angeles, into Chicago and the rest and choke those cities to death with smog and crime and all of the rest that comes with over population. It is going to be necessary for America to grow toward its heartland, toward the center. It is going to be necessary for Americans to find again the excitement and the challenge of what is basically rural America.

I don’t mean by that that this Nation becomes completely industrial and that farmers have no place in the future of our Nation. I have already covered that point. But I am saying that there is a need for a balanced approach to the development of America: new cities, new towns, out across this great heartland of our country.

I do not have the answers now. I do know, however, that for the first time in the history of this country we are thinking about these problems and we are very fortunate to have a Secretary of Agriculture who is able to look beyond the next crop year, but looks down to the end of this century, just as you will. That is the kind of a man we need. It is the kind of thinking we want for America at this particular time in our history.

There is another reason that we emphasize rural America, because the spirit of America will be the better for it. There is no substitute for a nation’s spirit. It comes from the people. It comes from the family.

It comes from the schools. It comes from the churches of this Nation. And as we look toward rural America we find much of the strength and much of the character of America is there. We want to keep it. We want to recognize it. We want to strengthen it. We want to nurture it.

I mention all these things because if I were a farmer in America today I would be proud of it, proud because of what you are producing and what you are achieving, and proud because of what you add to America in terms of character and strength.

Finally, one personal point: I mentioned that I had appeared before this organization before. Mr. Shuman will recall that I have appeared several times as Vice President of the United States. And I have appreciated all of those invitations. But most of all, I appreciated an invitation to appear before you the last time that I met you at a convention at Las Vegas.1 Incidentally, I went there for the convention and for no other purpose.

1On December 6, 1966.

In this football season perhaps I can illustrate why I appreciated that invitation with a little story. I have a good friend in the football coach at Ohio State, Woody Hayes. After Ohio State beat Purdue, Mr. Secretary, I wrote him a letter of congratulations and talked to him on the phone.

Then after he lost to Michigan and they were therefore eliminated as Number 1-and then I thought Texas was Number 1 until I heard from Penn State, now I am not sure—I wrote Woody Hayes another letter. I will try to remember it as I said it and then you will see why all this talk about Woody Hayes and football andOhio State and Michigan and Purdue relates to that invitation to Las Vegas.

I said, "Dear Woody: From experience, I know that when you win you hear from everybody. I know that when you lose you only hear from your friends, and as your friend, I write you today when you lose to Michigan."

I want you to know that I appreciated the fact that when I had lost I was invited to appear before the American Farm Bureau Convention. Therefore, I believe that those in this great organization, despite your partisan affiliations, you are my friends. And I want you to know that, win or lose, you can be sure that at least during the balance of this term that you will have a friend in the White House and a friend in the Department of Agriculture. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:11 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel.


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Chicago: Richard M. Nixon, "480 Remarks at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.," Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049 1000–1003. Original Sources, accessed May 28, 2024,

MLA: Nixon, Richard M. "480 Remarks at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation." Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049, pp. 1000–1003. Original Sources. 28 May. 2024.

Harvard: Nixon, RM, '480 Remarks at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.' in Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1969. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1048-1049, pp.1000–1003. Original Sources, retrieved 28 May 2024, from