(TIME, May 6, 1929) -- In an orange grove near Orlando, Fla., last month, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee cut open an orange, prepared to sink his teeth into it, halted at a horrid sight -- maggots! He fairly ran to a laboratory where, under a microscope, he made a terrible discovery: the grubs were larvae of Halterophora capitata (Mediterranean fruit fly), most vicious and destructive of dipterous pests, never before found in the U.S. Out went the alarm over Florida. Inspection showed that the infestation had spread through three counties -- Seminole, Orange and Lake American. Legionaries volunteered as fruit inspectors.
In Washington, President Hoover described the appearance of halterophora capitata as "a grave emergency." He called upon Congress to authorize the transfer, from the Department of Agriculture's boll weevil fund, of $4,250,000 to fight the Florida fly. The House complied promptly, last week. The Senate took its time.
Senators v. Hoover Campaign speeches are written to mean a lot of things to many men. Candidate Hoover's were no exception. Last week the more incongruous of his campaign supporters arose in the Senate to decry what they called "inconsistencies" between the Hoover position on farm relief before the election and after.
Candidate Hoover discussed husbandry and its problems in his closing campaign speech, at St. Louis. President Hoover recommended to Congress a farm relief plan, consisting of tariff revisions and the creation of a Federal Farm Board with "adequate working capital" to reorganize marketing, to assist co-operatives handle surplus crops. Later, he opposed the export debenture pan produced by the Senate, whereby exporters of farm produce would receive a bounty equal to one-half the tariff rate on the same commodity.
Deserters. First to square off at the President's farm program was florid, blinking Senator Smith Wildman Brookhart of Iowa. A vociferous champion of radical farm measures, Senator Brookhart had pleaded the Hoover cause in 200 stump speeches last autumn. He had shouted to rural audiences that the Republican candidate was "progressive" on farm legislation. "Progressive" in those days meant much more than it does now.
Last week Senator Brookhart called the Senate's attention to quotations from Mr. Hoover's campaign speeches, contrasted them with his official statements as President:
Tactics. Despite Senator Brookhart and friends, however, President Hoover's opposition to the Senate bill began to show results. Support of the debenture plan began to crumble. Informal Senate polls predicted its probable defeat. Its advocates schemed how they could transfer it from the farm bill to the tariff bill, explaining that its location there would be more logical. In the tariff bill they thought it would muster more House support, would be harder for the President to veto. Nebraska's Norris drafted an amendment to reduce the bounty on crops over-produced.
Many a Senator put aside his own opinions in favor of the President's to hasten action on this legislation. North Dakota's young Nye, usually troublesome, saw the futility of wrestling with the Hoover bloc in the House. Said he: "There is no use wasting time. . . . We ought to agree upon a bill promptly so that the farmers will get assistance in this year's crops."
More potent support for the Hoover position came, unexpectedly, from Frank Orren Lowden, mightiest of Farmer's friends, the man who withdrew his candidacy at Kansas City when the Republican National Convention refused to endorse the equalization fee, and sulked on his Illinois estate through the campaign. Mr. Lowden said: "It becomes the duty of all sincere friends of farm relief to cooperate with the Administration in giving effect to its program." Reports filled the capital that Mr. Lowden might be asked to head the Federal Farm Board.
The House Bill. -- The full force of Hoover authority was plainly exhibited when the House, docile and well-pledged, passed the administration's farm bill 367 to 34. (The House passed the first McNary-Haugen Bill 214 to 178; the second, 204 to 122.) Fenced off with the barbed wire of special rules which kept out all amendments including the debenture plan, the measure was practically unchanged by eight days of debate. It provided for: A Federal Farm Board, supplied with $500,000,000 to advance to farm co-operatives for marketing purposes, to stabilization corporations for buying and holding surplus crops.
June 24, 1929 HUSBANDRY End & Beginning
Farm relief last week actually began its journey from the field of legislation to the husbandman's acres. The Congress, straining and wheezing, passed an administration bill, minus the export debenture plan and President Hoover, signing it with a smile and two pens, called it "The most important measure ever passed by congress in aid of a single industry." It was an end and a beginning.
Much legislative maneuvering was necessary to get the measure through to the White House. First the Senate, full of ill temper, refused by a vote of 46 to 43, to accept the conference report in which the export debenture plan was stricken from the bill. President Hoover was openly flouted by those who either honestly believed in this plan or felt that honestly believed in this plank or felt that the House, heretofore gagged, should be given a chance to express itself. Speaker Longworth and other leaders had refused to give the House a vote on the debenture pan for two reasons: 1) it would force mid-western Congressmen to go on record on a politically troublesome issue; 2) it would be a backdown by the House on its claim that the Senate had no constitutional authority to originate such a "revenue-raising" plan.
Not until President Hoover called House and Senate leaders into conference was the way cleared for the bill's enactment. Exerting himself as party chief, the President virtually ordered that the House vote on this question as the Senate's price of recession. So the House voted 250 to 113 against the debenture plan. The next day, as gracefully as possible, the Senate acquiesced.
When President Hoover picks the members of the now authorized Federal Farm Board, there will come into existence an agency for agriculture comparable in scope and authority with the Interstate Commerce Commission for transportation, the Federal Reserve Board for finance.
The board will be composed of eight members selected by the President and confirmed by the Senate, plus the Secretary of Agriculture ex officio. It will have a working capital of $500,000,000 supplied from the U.S. Treasury. With this cash to lend, it will try to induce farmers to forego some of their normal independence, to join co-operative marketing associations. These associations, with money borrowed from the board, will attempt to move food from farm to market more cheaply, with less spoilage and waste, than is now accomplished by scattered and individual private effort.
Less than one-third of the 6,500,000 U.S. farmers are now members of joint selling organizations. Success of farm relief now depends almost entirely upon the extent to which the farmers will now cooperate. Many experts believe that more than two- thirds of the farmers must join co-operatives before any appreciable bone-fit will accrue to husbandry as a whole.
A second important task of the new board will be to help organize and finance special stabilization corporations among farmers to purchase surplus farm products from glutted seasonal markets and hold them in storage pending better prices. In the past such large-scale grain corporations on private capital and under private control have failed. It remains to be seen whether federal cash and supervision can make them successful. Critics of the new farm relief legislation predict that the Federal Farm Board will loan large sums to such corporations which in turn will buy in surplus commodities on a falling price market, be forced to sell them at a still lower price and, in the end, completely exhaust the board's capital.
Last week the Great Question on many a farm throughout the land was: Will there be federal relief for this year's crops?
Wheat men, dubious of such relief this season, pricked up their ears at a suggestion from North Dakota's Senator Nye that the U.S. should buy up 50 or 100 million bushels of surplus wheat, ship it to famished China as a gesture of goodwill.
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