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able friend, Karl King, whom we respect and who contributes a great deal to the solution of the problems before our committee.
It is not very often we have time to bring a committee to the people who have problems to present to us. Ordinarily you would have to come to Washington, but this year it is the plan of our committee to go over the entire country in order to get grassroots opinions on the problems confronting various segments of the agricultural industry. That is one reason we are here today.
This is our first meeting outside of Washington. Beginning after Congress adjourns next month we hope to take a trip up to Maine and some of the New England States, and then we are going into various parts of the country and hold numerous hearings. We are doing this in an effort to strengthen either the present program or to develop a new program for American agriculture which is not the easiest thing to do.
Today we hope to hear some of your problems and to receive your suggestions. After all, the production of fresh vegetables, the canning and processing of vegetables, and the freezing of vegetables is an important segment in our agricultural economy.
When Brother King invited us to come here, we did so and we are mighty happy that we have had a chance to see some of the agriculture in this section of the country which looks a great deal like we have in my section of Minnesota. Your specialty is in the production of vegetables for the market.
With that acknowledgment of your remarks, Mr. King, we will open our meeting. I am going to ask Congressman King to call on the various witnesses, and
after you have made your statements you may have some questions submitted to you by members of the committee.
Mr. KING. Most of you have already become acquainted with Leo Towson, undoubtedly, who is connected with the Seabrook Farms and is also president of the Vegetable Growers Association of America.
Lee, will you come and take the stand and proceed as you see fit!
STATEMENT OF A. LEE TOWSON, PRESIDENT, VEGETABLE
GROWERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, SEABROOK FARMS, BRIDGETON, N. J.
Mr. Towson. Karl, I have prepared a formal statement of what I am going to say,
Mr. KING. I think it should be stated because of the lateness of the hour that we will not want to extend the individual talks because we have five persons who have been specially invited to talk and we would like to cover them all.
Mr. Towson. I would like to thank this committee for this opportunity to present to it some of the more pressing problems. We have many problems in the vegetable industry but these are some of the most pressing as of now. The first is this released acreage problem, I might describe that.
It is the acres we intend to take out of the production of the basic commodity crops which will be under a high-support program. Under the present rulings this acreage has a dynamic effect, or can have that effect, if it is not controlled in some manner to those producers who have been making their own way in this country and not with Government aid or support. The vegetable industry has to go it alone and has survived by efficient competitive business methods. The Govern ment should encourage this.' The Government should encourage self-reliance. : You are going to consider allotment programs totaling probably 30 million acres. In wheat you are talking about 15 million; cotton probably 7 million; and corn, in the future, of 8 million. This 30 million acres of land which covers only 3 of your 8 basic commodities, when that comes out of production a farmer does not like to see idle land. It is going into something. Right now there is no control on it. We in the vegetable industry are particularly anxious to have something done about this.
We are against controls primarily, principally, and basically, but those segments of agriculture which we think need controls, then, should be fully controlled or as fully as possible. We do not believe it is fair that wheat or cotton producers have a subsidized program, being held up by Government funds through subsidy and price support on the one hand and then taking 15 or 20 percent out of that production and taking that acreage and going into competition with those fellows who have been making it so far by themselves. It is unequal competition,
The vegetable industry production does not vary much during the year; about 10 percent. The total acreage in vegetables does not go over 4 million. It goes between 342 and 4 million acres. Tonnagewise they supply, along with potatoes, 50 percent of the food in this country which would be around 5 million acres. You can readily see with 30 million acres floating around out of the 3 basic commodities that even if 1 percent of that acreage goes into vegetables we will be ruined.
We have made it. We have not asked for Government support. We are feeding more people and have more vegetables now. We have done it without Government help in a formal manner. Yet we do not feel that it is proper for the Government to take this land and let it go and not have some control over where it goes.
The vegetables are only one segment of this thing. There are many other farmers in this country that have been producing these minor crops and making their way with them, yet they can be flooded out or ruined by this subsidized competition.
What is our solution? Here is a problem. We offer a basic principle as a solution. It is found on page 2 of the prepared statement. It starts with the middle of the first line. [Reading:]
The vegetable and potato growersand I say the potato people because the potato people have been working close with us, the National Potato Councilsuggest that a provision of compliance under a price-support program of a basic commodity be that all acreage reinoved from production under acreage quota allotments for such commodity be placed under a soil organic restoration program as approved by individual State soil conservation committees and that no crop may be harvested from such acreage.
We are putting this land on production and building it for potential food for this country and improving that soil while it is out of production. Under this amendment we are proposing it has State approval. In other words, the Federal Government cannot tell everybody what to do, what is best for them. That must be complied with under this before a fellow would be eligible for price support in his program.
There is a further factor I would like to bring out. The production of vegetables is divided into two classes, processed and fresh. The processed part of the program is about half that acreage and that acreage is more or less controlled by the processors. If they see there is a heavy inventory of processed vegetables, they will cut down their intended planting or contractings; but the farmer, and I say this with respect because a member of the committee is one of those and is to be admired, is a fresh fellow. He is the fellow who will be particularly hurt because he has nowhere to go. They flood these markets with these vegetables produced by producers who are subsidized by the Government and hurt this fellow who is trying to make his own way. There is nothing he can do about it. We think something must be done, and I am sure we will have a whole lot of popular support.
The next item that I wish to discuss is the trip-leasing bill, H. R. 3203.
Mr. ANDRESEN. May I ask you a question or two on the first portion ? Mr. Towson. Yes, sir.
Mr. ANDRESEN. It is your estimate that approximately 15 million acres are used in this country for the production of vegetables ?
Mr Towson. Yes, sir.
Mr. ANDRESEN. And that supplies approximately one-half of the diet of the American people?
Mr. Towson. Tonnagewise, yes, sir.
Mr. ANDRESEN. If these 15 million acres or even 1 percent of the acreage is put into certain types of vegetable production, it is your honest judgment that that would seriously interfere with individuals like yourself who are historically engaged in the production of vegetables ?
Mr. Towson. Yes, sir. (The following letter was subsequently received from Mr. Towson :)
VEGETABLE GROWERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA,
Bridgeton, N. J., July 27, 1959. Hon. AUGUST H. ANDRESEN,
House Office Building, Washington, D. O. MY DEAR MR. ANDRESEN : When appearing before your committee on Saturday I had the feeling that I may have been guilty of a misstatement in reply to one of your questions. If I remember correctly it had to do with the amount of food which the vegetable acreage contributes. Last year about one half of the food consumed by the American people was food produced under nonsupport programs. This of course included many more acres than that devoted to vegetables. Vegetables now are the second largest item, tonnagewise, on the American diet. If the record shows that my fears concerning my statement to you are correct I would appreciate it very much if you would correct the record.
It was a great pleasure having you and your committee at Seabrook Farms on Saturday. I am sorry that all of your committee could not have been present. I appreciated very much the opportunity of meeting you. Sincerely,
A. LEE Towson, Jr., President. Mr. ANDRESEN. Do you have any proposal or suggestion to make as to what type of conservation payments or how much should be paid to the people in the wheat, corn, or cotton areas to keep their İand out of competitive production ?
Mr. Towson. I think, Congressman, that program has already been set up. In other words, I got this term out of a PMA soil conservation book, Soil for Cumberland County, where they paid so much an acre for the acres we took out and plowed down crops or did certain practices on.
Mr. ANDRESEN. I do not know the exact figure.
Mr. Towson. In this case it was $20 an acre, but that might be for our own locality only.
Mr. ANDRESEN. I doubt very much if it would be $20 an acre on a nationwide scale, but this vacated land from the basic crop production is put into pasture and that would take at least a year to get good pasture there, 1954. The land would not produce any particular income for the owner of it during that period. To use that grass or hay or whatever legumes he might plant, he would have to go into the production of livestock; beef cattle, for instance.
They say we have around 95 or 96 million head of cattle in the country. If the bottom dropped out of the market on cattle, it might be difficult to induce him to do that unless there were some reward for it. I am thinking just for the moment up in the Red River Valley which is a wheat-growing and potato-growing area. The logical thing up there is to raise potatoes and sugar beets on that vacated ground. It is good soil for those vegetables.
If the price is right, they will probably raise potatoes. It would be better for them to raise sugar beets maybe.
Mr. Towson. If this land is not going to potatoes, you might have difficulty in convincing the farmers up there not to plant potatoes unless they received a rather equitable payment from the Government. The vegetable growers believe in a free economy. We are advocating this only if the wheat people who are going out of wheat or the cotton people who are going out of cotton want these supports and this money to back them up. If they throw the thing out, let her flow and the vegetable man takes care of himself as he has. If he wants that, then we want him to keep out of production on our crops with subsidized Government money backing him. Mr. ANDRESEN. You make it
clear. Does any member of the committee want to question Mr. Towson on that?
Mr. ALBERT. Do you think there would be much of this cottonwheat land going into competitive crops?
Mr. Towson. Of course the cotton is more potential than the wheat, but you will notice in my statement there is a letter, unsolicited, written to Walter Pretzer, the former president of our organization, within the last 2 weeks by a county agent out in Ohio. A wheat farmer came in to see him and wanted to know how he could get into vegetable production. He was looking for advice. He is looking for a home for that land.
If he had been producing vegetables alone on that land and meeting in free competition with us, that is swell. But we do not want him to be 50 acres forced out of wheat and put 50 more acres into vegetables. We have been operating under the law of
supply and demand strictly. It is a narrow ballot. You know that. Here you are requesting this flood of acres, forcing it out of production with no control on it. It is a difficult situation.
Mr. GATHINGS. How much acreage in these major crops during 1950 that was not planted under a control program went into vegetable crops ?
Mr. Towson. There were 26 million acres forced out in 1950. There was a very heavy inventory of processed vegetables. So there were over 100,000 acres forced out of processed vegetables because of a heavy
inventory. There was on the gambling part 38,000 more acres put in
Mr. GATHINGS. That is a gamble?
Mr. Towson. There are a good many more acres. Half of that acreage they do not know where it went. They know that much went into vegetables, but there are 13 million acres they do not know where it went. In other words, a lot of that may have been in vegetables.
Mr. GATHINGS. Does that affect your market or your price?
Mr. Towson. Yes. It is operating now under the law of supply and demand. You let all these other fellows come in there and it does not take much to tip the scales.
Mr. GATHINGS. Did it tip the scales in 1950 ?
Mr. Towson. I do not remember. I do not have the records here. Karl King's income tax statement will probably show it.
Mr. KING. I think it did show it.
Mr. HOEVEN. How would the increase in population affect your proposal? Do you think the acreage planted to vegetables could take care of the needs of the coming 10 to 15 years without expanding acres ?
Mr. Towson. I do not think we could make a rule here that would apply for 10 or 15 years. I am looking for only the immediate future.
Mr. Hoeven. We are having a very gradual increase in population. It may be necessary to increase our vegetable acreage.
Mr. Towson. We have taken care of the last 10 years' increase in population. There has been a tremendous increase in the consumption of vegetables with the same acreage.
Mr. ANDRESEN. Except potatoes.
Mr. King. Mr. Towson, would you not, as a vegetable man, say that the potential supply of vegetables in this country is limited only by the possible sale and not at all by the acres that will grow vegetables, nor is it limited at all by the ability of vegetable farmers to increase the acreage if they have only a promise of a good gamble?
Mr. Towson. That is right.
Mr. KING. So there is no possibility that this country, even with a 50-percent increase in population, can be short of vegetables ?
Mr. Towson. Nor anything else. I do not agree with these fellows. who wave that kind of a flag around.
Mr. King. In other words, the increasing population is a very minor factor in the future opportunity for vegetable production in this country?
Mr. Towson. That is absolutely right.
Mr. BELCHER. As I understand you, you are not objecting to an expanding vegetable production that the market will absorb and you are not objecting to competition from anybody who wants to go into the vegetable business; you are objecting to people going into the vegetable business who have had their acres taken by a subsidized program.
Mr. Towson. That is right. Over the period of years we have met the competition, but we feel that this is not fair. I hope you will agree with me. These fellows who take 100 acres out of cotton and still have 500 acres—and you are guaranteeing them an income on a price-support program-those fellows will probably produce vegetables at a loss, but yet he can still go because he has his Government money from his cotton.