Tonight, from Boston, The Advocates. Howard
Miller, William Rusher and the moderator, Michael Dukakis.
Good evening and welcome to The Advocates. Every week at
this time, we look at an important public issue in terms of a practical
choice and we invite you to participate in the political process by
listening to our debate and then sending us your votes. Tonight's issue
concerns farming, and specifically our question is this: Should large
corporations be driven out of farming? Advocate Howard Miller says
Large financial conglomerates are farming rural America for
a harvest of dollars and leaving behind them enormous human costs which we
all pay for. With me tonight to urge that industrial companies get out of
agriculture are Jim Hightower, Director of the Agribusiness Accountability
Project, Washington, and United States Senator from Oklahoma, Fred
Advocate William Rusher says "no."
Tonight's proposal is an attempt to turn back the clock of
American agriculture fifty years. It will drive up your food bill, increase
your taxes and not even help the small farmers it pretends to protect. With
me tonight to tell you why are Russell Jeckel, corn and hog farmer from
Delavan, Illinois, Howard Marguleas, President for Agricultural Operations
at Tenneco and Professor Willard Williams of Texas Tech
Thank you, gentlemen. And now for some background on
(on film) The small farmer in America is an endangered
species. In the last twenty years, two million family farmers have been
driven off the land and Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, predicts
another million of the 2.9 million remaining will leave their farms in the
next decade. The farmer, particularly the small farmer, is being squeezed
out of business. Increased food prices have mostly benefited the middleman,
not the farmer. While the basic price paid for farm produce has remained
relatively stable, the cost of everything the farmer needs to raise that
produce has increased dramatically. Farms have survived by becoming more
efficient. Thirty years ago, the average farmer worked 167 acres of land,
today the average farm has grown to almost 400 acres. In short, the process
that sees fewer and fewer people in farming is a process that sees the land
itself being concentrated in larger and larger holdings. Coincident with the
decline of the small farm has been the emergence of a new agricultural
institution — the giant diversified corporation with farm and non-farm
holdings. Such agribusiness giants now account for a growing share of farm
production in America. While that share is still relatively small, the
impact of corporations able to control every aspect of food production from
the field to the supermarket shelf has been profound. The cry of alarm that
has arisen from the small farm in America has resulted in legislation now
before Congress that would drive the diversified corporate giants out of
farming. The legislation, introduced by Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson of
Wisconsin, is called the Family Farm Act of 1972. In the words of the act,
it is designed to restore competition to the agricultural industry and to
provide for the continuance of the family farm, (end of film)
Specifically, the Family farm Act of 1972 would require any
individual or corporation that owned more than three million dollars of
non-farm assets to divest itself of all of its agricultural holdings. It
would prohibit certain contractual arrangements between individual farmers
and farm processors and it would encourage individual farmers to market or
sell their products through farmer cooperatives. Senator Nelson and others
supporting the bill believe that it is an important and necessary first step
in reversing American farm policy, particularly as it affects the family
farmer. The bill is now in committee, but sponsors of the bill hope to have
it on the floor for debate during this session of Congress. And now to the
cases. Mr. Miller, why should large corporations be driven out of
The family farm, according to agricultural efficiency
studies of the Department of Agriculture, is happily the most efficient farm
in the country; the one to two man farm, no matter what it is — dairy,
peaches, vegetables or anything else. That farm, agriculturally efficient,
cannot compete against the non-farming industrial company that is today
coming into agriculture. Pyrex growing strawberries and Boeing potatoes. Why
not? Because the non-agricultural company can use financial tax benefits
that have nothing to do with agricultural efficiency. Tax write-offs, make
little profit but hold on to the land for capital gains, bargain for volume
discounts — what the small farm cannot do, and so the small farmer is
threatened and the balance sheet of the large industrial company may, on
occasion show a profit. But it's profit without value, because in its wake
the large industrial company that drives small farmers out of business
leaves behind human costs that are on no one's balance sheet — our system of
accounting does not tell us how true the cost is when people must leave the
farm, even though they're efficient, and move to cities. What's happened to
Ellis Hale and Joe Weisshaar does not appear on any corporate balance sheet,
but nevertheless, it is a human loss to all of us and to the United
(on film) Here in Arkansas, Ellis Hale tells us how
he used to have a chicken farm but got driven out by the big
This is broiler house number one, over there is
number two — number three and four was located down over the hill. We were
putting out about a quarter 'of a million birds out of these buildings every
year. Since 1962, we haven't grown one single solitary broiler. Not one
chicken has come off this place since 1962. And the reason that no chickens
have come off our farm since 1962 is because the big corporations
blacklisted us, and were in conspiracy among themselves to stop a broiler
growers organization that we were instrumental in forming. I think that the
farmer is definitely the most exploited man in the country. And he's being
exploited not only by the corporations, but he's being exploited by the
Department of Agriculture. I didn't contribute to any political fund. I'm
just an individual farmer and that's where the difference is. The
corporations have the money, they have the power, they have the politicians.
They have enough politicians bought and paid for that they can control the
laws that are enacted and the administration of those laws.
Up in Iowa, Joe Weisshaar can see that the big
corporations are about to move into the hog raising area. He told us about
the danger he sees.
The way corporations are going to get into hog
farming is … many of them start in this way now... They offer breeding stock
to put out for shares or contract and at first you're not tied down to a
contract of where you have to sell the product. This is going to come later.
It's kind of a creeping thing and the contracts get tighter and tighter just
like they did in the poultry industry. And after a while, you're going to be
told where you have to market your products. You're going to be told what
feed have to be fed if your contract's tied in with a feed company. And, in
effect, what you're going to be is just a laborer for them. You're going to
lose all your management decisions. They'll be made by someone else. I don't
see how corporations with hired labor can do as good a job as he family
farmer who's willing to sacrifice all these things. He's using family labor,
hours mean nothing to him. He's willing to make these sacrifices.
Ellis Hale is one of millions of farmers who've
been forced off the land in the past thirty years. That fact gives Joe
Weisshaar a lot to think about, (end of film)
That can happen all over the United States, and to tell us
why we must try and stop it now, I've asked to join us tonight Jim
Welcome to The Advocates, Mr. Hightower.
Jim Hightower is Director of the Agribusiness
Accountability Project in Washington, D.C. Mr. Hightower, is there a threat
to the family farmer today? What is it?
Well, there certainly is. The threat essentially is, since
about 1945 the rise of corporate power in real America. Involved here are
not just family corporations and minor corporations, but literally the
corporate strength in America, the same giant conglomerates that sit on Wall
Street in New York City, all across the country right across to Montgomery
Street in San Francisco. I.T.T. for example, is involved, Boeing Aircraft is
involved, Tenneco. Just the giant corporations, the conglomerates that are
moving into agriculture. In addition to the conglomerates, there is an
enormous rise in vertically integrated agribusinesses. Involved here are the
giant processing corporations, the brand names that you find on your grocery
store shelves. You can literately just go down a grocery store shelf and
practically for every brand name there -- Delmonte, Heinz, Campbell Soups,
Swift -- you can assume that most of those are vertically integrating
But don't those large companies bring efficiency to
agriculture, or do they just bring the advantages of their money?
Well, they do mostly bring the advantages of their money.
Efficiency is a myth that has been perpetrated by agribusiness and by its
apologists both in Congress and elsewhere. Efficiency is -- for years we've
had in this country a family farm system that produced food as efficiently
as anybody can produce it. It produced good food and food at a relatively
cheap price. Corporate efficiency can be more a matter of business than it
is a matter of farming. Business and farming are two separate pursuits. A
corporation like I.T.T. might be good at getting the telephone installed but
it's not terribly good at getting farms.
What about this remedy that the bill suggests -- having
the large industrial companies divest themselves of their agricultural
holding? Is that unusual for us in this country?
No, it's not unusual at all. I think it's a very
appropriate step at this time to take. Essentially, we're dealing with the
Clayton Act which is the basic antitrust document in this country. When the
Clayton Act was passed, agriculture was exempt and essentially what this
bill does is just put agriculture back in there.
I think I'll have to break in at this point. Mr. Rusher
has some questions to ask you Mr. Hightower and in the course of your
answering them, would you tell us what it means to be a vertically
Would you do that briefly to begin with?
Yes, vertically integrated corporations of agriculture
simply means a non-farming corporation that is controlling
Why doesn't it also mean a farming corporation that's
controlling production? What is there about vertical integration that
exclusively pertains to non-farming corporations?
Well, it's the non-farming corporations that
vertically integrating backwards and forwards into the production
food. Now some farm corporations might move forward
How about co-ops? There are a lot of co-ops that are
vertically integrated aren't there?
Co-ops, though, are only controlled by farmers.
Yes, but they're monopolies in their field. Citrus juice
co-ops control 70% of the American production of citrus juice. Why are they
not mentioned in the Nelson bill?
Because those are co-ops of farmers, those are-producers,
and not vertically integrated.
A monopoly conducted by farmers themselves is
Well they're not monopolies, the issue tonight is not
co-op power, the issue tonight is corporate power.
Well, the issue tonight is maybe comparing corporate and
co-op power and why you exclude one from the bill and include the
Well if you can show me a co-op that has the resources of
I.T.T. then I think we'll be talking at the same level.
I would have thought that Sunkist had plenty
Not on the level of I.T.T.
Oh well, come on, I.T.T. has the resources for what it
does. Let's ask you this, the Nelson bill to begin with doesn't just apply
to large corporations at all, does it?
It applies to corporations with assets of over three
Not just to corporations does it?
Persons, partnerships ---
Partnerships also. As well as corporations. In point of
fact then, the Nelson bill is not aimed exclusively at large corporations at
all, is it?
It is aimed at persons, conglomerates, corporations,
partnerships, with assets of more than three million dollars.
A great deal more, yes. Suppose a large corporation, or a
bigger individual farmer for that matter, does have advantages from the size
of his operation, either efficiency advantages or simply, from size, getting
credit, things like-that, and suppose further that he does pass along his
savings to the consumer in the form of lower prices? Are you saying or
suggesting that we should pay higher prices to the small farmer in order to
preserve the values of the small farm?
No, I'm not saying that at all. I've said in my opening
statement that efficiency is not a factor of bigness.
Well, I'm coming to efficiency, but assuming that there
were an advantage to bigness, even just getting credit for example, as there
sometimes is, should the consumer be willing to pay the higher price to the
There are values on the small farm that are worth
That's what I was getting at. And you do feel that it
would be appropriate to pay a slightly higher price in order to preserve
I'm not sure that we have to pay a slightly higher price
to do that. I'm not willing to concede that you do have to pay a slightly
If you're not willing to concede, well let's examine that
question. If you don't want to concede that, you spoke and Mr. Miller did,
of the larger operations not in fact being more efficient. But, in the
broiler chicken industry which Mr. Miller's first farmer had been in which
was shown to us on film, Ralph Nader's Task Force in 1971 reported that,
thanks to the new technology, chickens used to cost in 1960, 60 cents a
pound, in 1970 the price was 42 cents a pound.
The price, though, is a good deal more than 42 cents a
pound. The price is also several thousand small farmers, like Mr. Hale in
the south that are devastated.
Now, that's what I'm asking you. Should we be paying
higher prices for chickens in order for Mr. Hale to continue?
But that the price has gone down is not a function of
Well, it certainly was sufficient to get Mr. Hale out
the business — the price
If that's the efficiency you're after
Well, it certainly is a human value of sorts isn't it?
Isn't it a human value if we're able to pay 42 cents instead of 60 cents a
pound for chicken.
But you pay on April 15th as well as you pay at the
Exactly, and Mr. Hale is not on — as I understood it he
has another business, he is not on welfare, so that isn't a question. He's
probably paying taxes like the rest of us.
Tell me, can't the Sherman and the Clayton antitrust acts
and the Federal Trade Act be used to prevent the kind of conspiracy and
blacklisting that Mr. Hale accused, Mr. Hale, the farmer who had been in the
chicken broiler business — he accused unnamed people there of conspiracies
and blacklisting, why can't the acts that I have mentioned, Sherman, Clayton
and Federal Trade Act be used to go after those people?
I don't know why they haven't done it before, but the
regulatory agencies generally have not been very effective and have
certainly not been involved in agriculture. You take the FTC, which finally
has filed an action against United Brands. But with two thousand farmers a
week leaving the land, I don't think that the farmers of this country are
going to be willing to wait.
I don't know. Are you saying that people are not enforcing
the laws — the laws would work if they were enforced?
It sounds like it to me.
You think they're going to enforce then the law that you
I think that there will be actions under this law that are
not now being taken. It's an emphasis, a focus that we need on the family
farm system in the country.
What about farmers who want to sign up with non-farm
corporations like Tenneco?
The bill does not prevent them.
The bill does not prohibit them from signing up with
I think what you mean is that it does not prevent them
from selling to Tenneco.
It does not prevent them from selling
I said signing up with — actually becoming a part of the
Tenneco operation. For example, Tenneco harvests the crops in large areas of
Why should Tenneco be allowed to harvest the
Why shouldn't the farmer let them harvest them if he wants
Because the farmer — because one farmer is not the issue,
the issue is productivity and the entire agricultural economy. That's how
Ralston Purina began, with one farmer. I think the lesson is in Ralston
So that the answer --
I think I have to break in at this point gentlemen. Thank
you very much, Mr. Hightower, for being with us. Mr. Miller.
The bill prohibits an industrial concern from controlling
agricultural production, whatever that involves. Prices of broilers fell.
But there's no evidence that it fell because of Ralston Purina or other
companies assumed ownership. We do know that Ralston Purina and other
companies were found by the Department or Agriculture to have done that
illegally, to have violated many acts in the process. In fact, the one
family farm, the one or two man family farm is the most efficient in the
country. Its productivity rose twice as fast as that of industrial concerns.
The only reason larger companies can enter agriculture is because of the
accidents of their financial and tax abilities. Nothing to do with
agricultural efficiency. Let's protect agricultural efficiency and the human
values of the family farm.
Thank you, Mr. Miller, we'll be coming back to you later
for your rebuttal case, but now let's turn to Mr. Rusher to find out why
large corporations should not be driven out of farming.
Once upon a time, the small family farm was the perfect
way to carry out agricultural production. In some cases, it still is- But in
many others, the small farmers have had to incorporate and enlarge their own
operations or band together in big co-operatives to process and market their
products efficiently. In a few instances, corporations in other lines of
business have thought it might be worth while to go into farming. From the
seed to the consumer, so to speak. Using their capital and their marketing
know-how to do what the average farmer could not reasonably be expected to
do. Tonight's proposal pretends to concentrate on running those few large
corporations out of farming, supposedly to help the small farms.
But the truth is that this bill would create chaos in a
huge section of American agriculture, including all the most productive
parts of it. And the irony is that it would still not do a blessed thing for
the large part of American agriculture that really needs help -- the 60% of
American farms that make less than $1,700 a year. In short, the Nelson bill
might be called “Farm State Politicians Scapegoat Act of 1972." Let's hear
first from an independent hog farmer who competes with corporations quite
successfully, Mr. Russell Jeckel.
(on film) Well, I was married during my last year at the
University of Illinois and I graduated in vocational agriculture, and I came
back to the farm in 1950. And at that time, the farm was a general farm. We
had a number of different kinds of livestock, pigs and cows, milk cows,
chickens, and so it became fairly obvious that if this farm was to support
two families that we were going to have to specialize and raise a good deal
of livestock, So we decided to go into the hog business and from that point,
the farm has grown from a 135 acre rented farm to something over 500 acres
now. We have title to this land, and we also have a pork production unit
which is capable of producing in excess of 5,000 hogs per year. (end of
Mr. Jeckel has left the farm in the hands of his father
and one assistant to be with us tonight. Mr. Jeckel.
Welcome to The Advocates, Mr. Jeckel.
As I said before, Mr. Jeckel is a corn and hog farmer from
Delavan, Illinois. Mr. Jeckel, your farm, as we saw, started rather small
and has prospered. How did that come about?
Well, for the last two generations, almost two
generations, it's been operated as a family enterprise. We've tried to adopt
new and better methods and ideas as they've come along. We've taken the
profits from the business and, along with borrowed money, put this back into
the business to help it grow. We've tried to adopt efficient business
management ideas and along with what we think is a good deal of enthusiasm
and optimism and plain hard work, we've tried to make a real go of
Mr. Jeckel, you saw Mr. Miller's hog farmer on film
expressing his fear of the corporations moving in on hog farmers. How do you
feel? Do you fear the competition of the corporations?
Well, we've seen some large corporations try to get into
this business, especially our type of business, and very frankly, the
management know-how is just not available and they seem to have all sorts of
difficulties. It takes a good deal of experience to sort of put, this
One last question. Would the Nelson bill, if it were
passed, help you or hurt you?
No, I don't think it would hurt us too much. I can see
maybe in the future that the possibility might exist, if we needed large
amounts of capital, that some of the sources of capital would not be
available to us.
And I take it it would not help you, you feel?
I have no further questions.
Mr. Miller has some questions for you, Mr.
Mr. Jeckel, you run a successful operation and you think
there's value in the family farm in the United States?
A great value in it. And, I take it you agree with the
Department of Agriculture reports which you told us that the family farm not
only can be but is as efficient as a large corporate farm.
Now, you talk about competing with the large corporate
non-farming corporation. Now there are non-farming corporations that have
entered agriculture not for the return from agriculture for example, but
simply to hold on to the land and wait for capital appreciation. They don't
care much about that immediate profit return. Do you think you could compete
with such a corporation?
Sir, I've got to primarily tell you about my own
experiences, and those that I've seen in cases where they’ve tried to get
into our type of business where sizeable knowledge and where a lot of
technology and know-how is needed, they just haven't been able to put this
We're going to hear from a subsequent witness who I think
thinks large corporations can do very well. The Farm Quarterly Journal
reports in 1969 that the size of corporations makes a real difference. It
reports cases of up to a 10% discount for large industrial corporations in
buying farm equipment when they order over a quarter of a million dollars or
more. That is, the amount of the purchase gives them enormous discounts on
farm equipment. That's true isn't it?
Well, I would think it would help, yes.
Would you think, Mr. Jeckel — a very interesting question
that Mr. Rusher raised and I'm interested in your view of — suppose that
large corporations could enter and, for whatever advantage, lower prices
somewhat, let's not talk about the amount but a bit, do you think it's worth
it for the country, because of the value of the family farm, the family
farms that now exist, do you think it worth it for the country to preserve
it because of the social values, because of preserving rural life,
preserving the kind of life you lead?
I rather feel that it's the kind of efficient system
that's going to evolve that's a real important part of this thing and I'm
not sure who's exactly going to get to do this, whether it's an individual,
a corporation, the family farm, but I think that if we continue with a free
enterprise system, as _ we would all hope that we would, the real efficient
unit will prevail.
So it wouldn't bother you if large, even non-farming
corporations that could get discounts on farm machinery, get lower rates on
bank loans, get tax write-offs against non-farm profits, if those
organizations came in and hurt family farmers, that wouldn't bother
Sir, the real measure is going to be whether they do an
efficient job out on the farm. I think that the things you mention may be
But their tests of efficiency are quite different.
mean, they may have lower costs having nothing to do with farm
because of their ability to get money, equipment and
write-off against other
profits. They may simply have a
different balance sheet from you because
they have lots of
non-farm business. ' So, what's profit to them may not be
to you. -
But it's an interesting thing — we've not seen
things materialize and
It's happened all over the south in the broiler industry,
that's exactly what happened. The industrial concerns going in with the
capacity to tie up farmers by selling them seed, tie them up on long-term
contracts and simply because they didn't care. They had other profits so
they could stand farm losses. How can you compete against the company that
looks at losses differently? You have to make a profit to survive. A company
that can write farm losses off against its profits — how can you compete
Gentlemen, I'm sorry, but I have to interrupt and say
thank you very much for being with us and keep the cost of pork chaps down,
would you please, Mr. Jeckel. Thank you. Mr. Rusher.
Now, what about those farmers who have chosen to work
with the so-called conglomerates? In Indio, California, the date capital of
the United States, the date growers were in trouble. In 1969, they made a
contract with H.M.T., a subsidiary of Tenneco, to buy, process and market
their dates. Today, the date processing plant in Indio is in full swing.
Sales are up, prospects are bright. Here is what date grower, Don Mitchell
thinks of the new arrangement with H.M.T.
(on film) H.M.T. has been in the date business for
two years. The big carry-over that was breaking our backs is now gone. We do
have a more hopeful picture of the future.
You had a big inventory a couple of years ago
before H.M.T. came in?
we had a carry-over that had accumulated over a
number of years that we couldn't sell without giving it away, and the change
has been very healthy.
How has your income been affected by your
relationship with them?
Well, there's been not an enormous increase but
enough better so that I feel far happier about the future than I did
Do you feel that they're competing with you in
Well, they're selling my fruit, why should they
compete with me?
They're not buying date gardens or buying
No, but I don't think I'd object if they did if
we got a fair deal from them.
They're not putting anybody out of business or
driving the family farmer off his land?
No, they've improved the picture here for the
date growers. There's no question about that, (end of film)
And now, let's hear from the chief executive of H.M.T.,
that very large corporation, Mr. Howard Marguleas.
Welcome to The Advocates, Mr. Marguleas
Now Mr. Marguleas, as I said, is President of H.M.T.
which is the agricultural division of Tenneco. Mr. Marguleas, you are the
president of a very large corporation engaged in agriculture. Does your
operation represent a threat to the small farmers?
Not at all, in fact, just the opposite. We depend greatly
on the small farmer. 80% of our sales of fresh fruits and vegetables are
derived from small farmers and only 20% are derived from our own farmlands,
so without the small farmer, we would find ourselves without a product and
virtually out of business.
What do you provide for them?
We provide a vehicle, in reality, to them or for them in
order to market their crops. We provide marketing expertise, we provide
advertising, promotions, we provide packing houses for them. If it were not
for our providing this, the small farmer who has got twenty or forty acres
would find himself in a position of frankly not knowing what to do with his
I wanted to ask you, what if the Nelson bill became law
and your corporation was forced out of the farming business altogether? What
would happen to the farmers like Don Mitchell, the date grower from
I think. Mr. Mitchell pretty well answered it, and I
think there's plenty of Mr. Mitchells all over the State of California, in
that not only would we be put out of business, I think that the small
farmer, he too, would be put out of business because of the passage of the
Has Tenneco, to your knowledge, ever been accused of
squeezing out a small farmer?
Frankly, Tenneco is accused of a lot of things every day
and I would imagine that some of the accusations are part of driving the
small farmer out of business, but to the best of my knowledge, this is
untrue, completely so.
In other words, to your knowledge, there has not been
such a case.
None whatsoever, no.
What benefits does Tenneco's operation provide for
This will have to be a very short answer.
We feel that the — our Sun Giant program which will be a
national brand, quality control, high-flavored attempt on our part to
distribute fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the United States, similar
to what Delmonte is doing in the canned food area, we feel that this is
going to be a real asset to the consumer and that we're going to make
available to her high quality fresh fruits and vegetables.
No further questions.
Thank you, Mr. Miller has some questions for
Mr. Marguleas, up until 1970, you weren't part of
Tenneco, it was your own company.
And you just became a member of Tenneco. And would you
have been barred, if you were not part of Tenneco? Does your operation
require more than three million dollars in non-
In non-farm assets?
No, so that just as you were doing before 1970, you
simply not be a part of Tenneco, you would continue to
Except, Mr. Miller, one point and that is that we would
only be about 10% as effective as I think we are today, because we need the
capital with which to advertise and to promote and distribute, and without
Tenneco and without the resources behind us, we wouldn't be able to do what
we are doing for Mr. Mitchell on his dates.
Well let's see if that's true. The bill says you can't
control production. You don't have to control date production to advertise
it and sell it throughout the United States-Throughout this country there
are dozens of companies that buy and sell, as wholesalers — you don't need
to control the date production do you?
True, but, by the same token, we provide many other
services other than just sales and promotion to him.
But you don't need to control the date production to do
what you do. You do it very well and you have no need to control the date
Well, we feel we're doing a more effective job for Mr.
Mitchell by controlling it for him.
Do you control it? Do you have to control it? That's what
I'm asking you, do you have to control it?
Control? What do you mean by control?
Well, tell me what you do. What do you have to do?
Everything that you have told me is permitted. Buying from him, advertising,
selling, as long as you don't control the production.
Right. Well, along with dates, we harvest his crop for
instance and harvest the crop of many others. We provide the equipment and
machinery and tools with which to do it.
He could do that himself.
No, the ten acre grower, I'm sorry, he couldn't do
He could form a cooperative and do that.
He had a co-op and the co-op went broke, that's why we're
Before you did his selling for him, of course. But you
could make an arrangement with him.
I don't know, all I know is prior to our entry into it,
the co-op was bankrupt and they asked us to come in and I think we've saved
I think you've done very well and I think you could do
well with Nelson bill and I congratulate you.
You do more than market, Tenneco also owns land, doesn't
It owns lots of land.
It owns 130,000 acres?
Approximately 100,000 acres in Kern County
In Kern County and San Joaquin Valley?
And you've recently sold some also?
Yes, we've just recently sold a substantial amount of
There's a real difference in the San Joaquin Valley
between towns that are near large landholdings and small landholdings,
aren't there? Are you familiar with the classic study of two towns in the
valley, the town of Arvin and the town of Dinuba and the impact of being
near a large or small holding?
You mean of Dinuba?
Yes. And that the study found that Dinuba which was near
the small towns had twice as many retail stores, twice as large retail
sales. Whereas in the large landholding town two thirds were employed as
farm laborers and in the small town only one third. Their social costs, the
question I'm getting to, do your balance sheets reflect the cost you put on
a community near your landholding?
No, but our balance sheets also reflect that we spend
over twelve million dollars in two plants in Bakersfield alone to take care
of small growers' products and we're employing in excess of twelve hundred
people. That without the infusion of our capital there, these people would
be without a job.
No, no. The contrasting study, because that was the
purpose of the Arvin-Dinuba study, the classic study of towns near small
landholdings, near large landholdings, the purpose was that the towns near
small landholdings were economically healthier, provided more retail trade,
had more self-employed people than the towns near large landholdings. Now
that impact on the towns near you, you don't really care about it.
Well, they are near us, both of them.
Yes, both of them are near you.
Right. We do care.
Certainly we care.
And if there were small landholdings, if you didn't own
100,000 acres, if those were broken up, perhaps even as the reclamation act
might require, into twenty acre parcels, perhaps all those towns would be
Oh, I think that's just a supposition on your
On that note we'll have to end it. Thank you very much,
Thank you very much.
Mr. Rusher, another witness.
Now let's hear a view of this from the standpoint of
agricultural economics. I call upon Professor Willard Williams
Welcome to The Advocates, Professor
Professor Williams is Professor of Agricultural Economics
at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, I believe.
Professor, we've heard a lot about the threat of giant
corporations to the small farmer. Just how serious is it?
In my view it's unadulterated exaggeration that is
designed to take the attention off the real problems that are faced in
I take it there are real problems in American
There are and there have been for a half century or more.
These have nothing to do with corporations today.
What are those problems?
The matter of substantial improvements in technology over
the years, the absolute demand to have larger farms and fewer farms. This
was coming regardless of the issues here today. These are the problems that
are affecting the giants today as well as the small ones. The matter of
highly varying prices, the matter of persistently low returns to resources
invested in agriculture, the need for a great deal more capital.
Now suppose the Nelson bill were passed. Would it help
this situation in any serious way?
In fact, I agree with you, it would cause chaos in a
great part of the agriculture that I know about. We have a great many
large-scale partnerships, individuals who own more than three million
dollars outside agriculture — these are some of the white hope we have for
agriculture that perhaps will be able to cause it to survive under the low
price food policy of the government today.
And the affect, of the Nelson bill would then be what
with respect to farming?
Well, it would disrupt the structure, the organization of
a good part of agriculture, and cause sort of a caste system to develop in
agriculture. You would be saying to agriculture, you must stay there, you
can't be anything else.
But, don't giant corporations drive out the small farmer,
as Mr. Miller and his witnesses have suggested?
No, in more cases than otherwise — and this is widely
recognized by the farm papers and by producers — they are helping producers
more than otherwise and some of the larger ones are investing in large
acreages in, let's say, northern Florida, that need to be drained, have
heavy capital investments, in the desert areas of California, in eastern
Oregon, areas that need enough capital that no individual farmer can
Mr. Williams, I'm going to have to break, in and
let Mr. Miller ask you some searching questions on these subjects. Mr.
Professor Williams, as an agricultural economist, do you
think there is a value for the country in preserving the family
Well, we've always had the argument about what the value
of a family farm is. I know a family farm that owns three million
No, well, you know what we're talking about.
It's a hot debate.
If you're talking about the family farm of the
No. I'm talking about the family farm that exists today,
the 400-acre one or two-man farm.
What is the family farm today?
What is the family farm today?
Let me give you the size that it's gone to — 380,
That is a mid-west farm. I know many family farms in the
mid-west, grain farmers that are three or four or five thousand acres. I
know some in Texas that are several hundred sections.
You know what I'm asking you and I'd like the answer. The
question is, given the average size farm that exists, that's farmed by one
family — the kind of farm that Mr. Hale had, the kind of farm that Mr.
Weisshaar had, the kind of farm that Mr. Jeckel has — is there a virtue to
the country in having policies trying to preserve that family
I grew up on such a farm and I was told what prices I
would pay and I was told what prices I would receive and I was told by the
bank how we would live and I moved out of agriculture because I didn't want
that kind of freedom.
I have to just ask you the question again — just have to
ask you the question again. Is the kind of farm that Mr. Jeckel has and that
we've heard about worth preserving, assuming that there are a great many
more like him and there are?
If you agree that if we permit him to grow and develop
the kind of industrialized and commercialized agriculture
that we must have
to fit your supermarkets, to fit your consumer
requirements, to fit the kind
of society we've developed today,
then I agree with you. But if you do not,
that is if you're
saying let's keep him the same size he is or let's keep
small farmers out here struggling and living the same way I've
great many live ---
Oh, but you know no one’s saying that, that’s not what
the bill says and ---
Yes I do, it’s my business to know.
Of course you know no one’s saying that. Do you agree
with the Department of Agriculture that the most efficient farming unit in
the country generally is the one to two man farm?
This is changing very rapidly. A one to two man farm can
operate several thousand acres.
I know that but that’s what the studies conclude, isn’t
I know many that own elevators, that own feed lots. We
have multi-million dollar feed lots operated by families.
What is the virtue then of permitting non-farming
corporations who have to have assets of over three million dollars, after
all, to come in the Nelson bill, what’s the virtue of permitting them to
The virtue is this, that the big problem of agriculture
is acquiring enough capital in some way or other to survive. In no area of
the country is the average size farm equal to the optimum, to the size that
can operate efficiently. They’ve always been behind.
We can help the farms acquire capital, can’t
And the big corporations have been able to help, in many
instances, farmers develop the kind of capital, by drilling the wells by
developing the land, by putting in the drainage and many of them then turned
the land over to farmers to use.
Yes, and there’s no other way the capital could be
They’ve had a big problem. They’ve had the government
trying to help for fifty years now.
Very successfully. I mean farm productivity is much
greater in terms of rise in industrial productivity.
We haven't solved these problems where we get thirty
dollar hogs one year and sixteen dollar hogs the next.
Gentlemen, I have to interrupt. Professor
Williams, thanks for being with us. Mr. Rusher.
It isn't altogether clear, but if I understand what Mr.
Miller is probing at, he seems to be saying that because there is a certain
virtue or mystique in the family farm as he imagines it — as Professor
Williams said, about fifty years ago — that there should be some sort of
subsidy by the government or by someone to keep it there. I don't think that
the farmers of America themselves want that. I think they’re too
individualistic to ask it.
Thank you, Mr. Rusher and now let's return to Mr.
Miller for his rebuttal argument in favor of driving large corporations out
There's no need for a subsidy, though I think if one were
required to preserve the family farm and the kind of advantages and the
towns surrounding the family farms, it would be worth paying. There's no
need for a subsidy because the one to two man farm is, the most efficient
farm. What's happening is that others that simply know how to manage money
better are affecting it. And it's justified in the name of competition. But
for the father of United States Senator, Fred Harris, it's not competition,
it's a stacked deck.
(on film) From Oklahoma, the father of Senator
Harris talks about his small farm and what the big corporations are doing to
Fred Harris Sr:
Well I think they're cutting us plum out
because the big corporations can operate cheaper than the little farmer can
operate. Just like your chain stores, your big chain stores, can buy — they
can sell groceries cheaper than the little operations. And that's what your
big corporations are doing, they're cutting the little guys plum out. We
can't live on what we're doing. Well, they can take the volume of business
and they can make money out of it, but look at the poor people they're
cutting plum out. Well, what I'm trying to get at now is that I think that
every man was created equal and if you give him a chance to do what he wants
to do I think every man has got enough pride in all to want to do it by
himself. And he don't want nobody to tell him how to do it, he needs to be
smart enough to do it himself. But the big corporations that think well,
hell, he can't make it and we'll just help him make it, we'll give him two
dollars a day or three dollars a day and we'll run it and we'll make the
damn money. And that's the way it looks to me and I don't want nobody to
tell me how to do it or when to do it. I'm too old for that, I'm sixty-four
years old, I've always made my own living, I've never been on relief, I've
never drawn no commodities, don't have no education, and I think if you give
people a chance they will do the same thing. I'm no smarter than anybody
else. I just try to make my own living. I've lived on this place all my
life. When I was raised up, there was a family owned every quarter of the
land there was in this country and everybody was happy and everybody was
making a living. They didn't have a lot of money but they was all living,
they was happy. There was a family on every quarter. Now then, there's a
family on about every eight or ten miles, (end of film)
We have with us Mr. Harris’ son, United States Senator
Welcome to The Advocates, Senator Harris. If
anybody who has been watching us has been counting, I think this is your
third appearance in as many months and we really appreciate your coming to
us again and sharing your thoughts and concerns in these issues with
Thank you Mr. Dukakis.
Senator Harris, is it in the natural order of things that
industrial companies get into agriculture, that Ralston Purina grow chickens
and Dow grows lettuce and Pyrex grow strawberries?
No, it's really unnatural. They're not more efficient at
farming. They're more efficient at harvesting from us, the federal
taxpayers, with tax subsidies and labor law subsidies, irrigation water law
subsidies. Even college agricultural economists help them out sometimes with
We've talked about the affect on rural America, but when
farmers leave the land and come to the cities, does that have an affect on
urban America as well?
Yes, I served on the Kerner Commission as you probably
know, which made that study of the cities back in 1967. And one of the
things we found was absolutely true, that if you to continue to have, as we
do now, 800,000 people a year coming on into these cities, you simply can't
catch up with what are already insoluble problems.
Is there a virtue in farming or in any place else simply
in being bigger? Is that something we ought to promote?
No, 1 think that generally you'd say that bigness is bad
if it's for private profit and if it means that you're exploiting labor, if
it means that you get control of markets so that you can drive up prices. I
think by and large that's what's happened and I don't think that's good in
Tell us about the affect on the country. I've spoken
about the Arvin-Dinuba study — is there a value in preserving the family
farm and the country that surrounds it, the community?
Yes. Thomas Jefferson thought so. And a lot of other
smart people have felt that our kind of democracy probably thrives better
where people can be small enough, are in a small enough community to belong
to things, to have organizations, to have smaller retailers, to have
churches, and so forth. The Arvin-Dinuba study is just a landmark study and
it shows in California one town with a big corporation owning nearly
everything and one with a lot of small farmers. There was twice as many
political and social organizations and so forth in the place where there
wore small farmers. I think that's good for America.
What should our national policy be? Should we encourage
large companies to take over or should we really be promoting other things
in rural America?
A very short answer to this, Senator.
We should stop subsidizing their take-over of
Thank you, Senator.
Your old friend Mr. Rusher is going to ask you
Senator, am I correct in believing that from 1954 to 1969
under Section 22, the State Constitution of Oklahoma, corporations were
prohibited from farming in the State of Oklahoma?
Yes, but it is my impression, though I haven't been in
the Attorney General's office or anything, that that was not a self
executing provision in our law.
No, but it was however, the uniform interpretation. Then,
in 1969, the court ruled that they could farm, is that correct?
I'm not familiar
with the exact details of
it, but by and large ---
By and large that will be true?
No, well, I don't know whether that's true. I was just
going to say, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Kansas, I think rightly, said a
long time ago that corporate agriculture is bad. We haven't enforced that as
well as we ought to though.
Well, what I'm getting at is how could your old pappy
tell us about his small farm and what the big corporations did to it and how
they're just driving the little fellows plum out of it, if corporations were
not even permitted under the State Constitution of Oklahoma?
Well, that's exactly what is happening,
Was it just the thought of them that drove him out of
No, the vertical integration of the livestock industry,
for example, has not been prohibited. It isn't under the Kansas
anti-corporate law. So, you're getting a lot of oil companies, for example,
now getting into huge livestock production operations which ought to be
prohibited in my view.
Mr. Miller seems to think that the Nelson bill, if passed
into law, wouldn't affect Tenneco's operations. Do you agree? And do you
Well, why are you against it if it doesn't,
I'm not sure that I consider Tenneco what I am here to
defend. I am here to defend higher values. But tell me, Mr. Miller went
through quite an elaborate locution to prove that Tenneco wouldn't be put
out of the farming business. Do you think it should be?
No, I think he was asking
Are you for Tenneco being in its farming
I'm strongly opposed to that. I think that's really bad
for America. Terrible for California too.
Don't you think Senator Nelson ought to re-draft his bill
to include something about that?
Well I think it already applies to them, and if it
Do you disagree with Mr. Miller about the
No, and I think Mr. Miller doesn't take any different
position from what I do.
Well, maybe not. I don't know. It seemed to me he
Your man from Tenneco you brought on as a witness should
be in favor of the Nelson bill. I took it he was against it.
He is, but he's fascinated by Mr. Miller's interpretation
that it doesn't apply to him.
Mr. Rusher, let me break in for a second.
Senator, nobody has mentioned farm laborers here and it's my impression that
Cesar Chavez and his people have had an easier time organizing big farmers,
big corporate farmers, than small farmers. They can get collective
bargaining with them much more easily. Now you're a man who's concerned
about farm labor, isn't one argument for big corporate farms that the farm
laborer can be treated better because he can bargain collectively with
No, I don't think that's so. First of all, the biggest
part of corporate agriculture is totally unorganized and wildly opposed to
being organized. But if you're a small grower, you're worried about having
to compete with all these big subsidies that these corporations get and so
you don't want to be organized as one more disadvantage as against those big
corporations. If we could break them up, then I think it would be easier for
everybody to be organized and I'm for them being organized and' for a
minimum wage in agriculture across the board, small or large.
I might add that if Senator Harris is on The Advocates
much more, we'll have to get him a card in AFTRA so that he can be organized
too. Senator tell me, back to efficiency, I have here a report of the United
States Department of Agriculture's Economics Research Survey dated November
1971 entitled Midwestern Corn Farms, with which I assume you might be to
some degree familiar. It says in the abstract at the top of it “rates of
return on investment are greater for the large operations because of
economies of size."
Are you arguing with the United States Department of
No. And your agricultural economist, as I understood,
said yes, the USDA is right. At least he didn't disagree with it as far as
the present situation.
I don't think he said the USDA was right in this, I don't
think he said that the USDA was right in saying that small farms were
necessarily as efficient. What about the statement? "Rates of return on
investment are greater for the large operations because of economies of
size." Is that right or wrong?
Show me the balance sheet, but you cannot deny that one
... one or two family farms, one or two man farms,
according to the USDA, you sorely don't discount that source, are just as
efficient as the larger farms.
Far from discounting that source, I am holding its
report in my hand and trying to get you to agree with it.
Well, you're trying to pick up an isolated
An isolated example like midwest corn farms?
Well that certainly is an isolated example.
Do you disagree with the USDA’s figures for ---
I agree exactly with what they have said. Tell me, should
we favor corner grocery stores over supermarkets?
In what capacity, in what way?
We ought not to subsidize ---
Do they have a value — do they have a value to preserve?
Isn't it in the interest, really, of all the people in the United States,
including in the very long run the little old corner grocer who is running a
small operation, that we should eventually get more efficient larger
Listen, if the little one is driven out, like they are in
agriculture, by tax subsidies, labor law subsidies, irrigation water law
—and are in violation of antitrust.
I'm talking about the value.
Well, you're not either. The antitrust laws are being
violated and they ought to be enforced. I would just want to make those
antitrust laws available in agriculture.
'Why aren't they available now?
Well, they're not, the law doesn't allow it. That's what
we're trying to do.
What do you mean, it doesn't allow it?
That's what the whole argument is about.
The Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Act don't
exclude farming by any means.
Why, they certainly do.
When the Clayton Act, which is the basic act, was written
The Sherman Act is the basic act.
Well, talk about the Clayton Act because that's what the
Nelson bill goes to. It applies in industry, it ought to apply in
Yes, so what about the Sherman Act? Why can't the laws we
have be used?
Well, if you like the laws, what's the matter with the
Because we don't need it. It's going to hurt all sorts of
people in an attempt to reap vengeance on a few large corporations, it's
going to hurt an awful lot of small people.
Yes, obviously that's where I and my Dad, who's a
disagree with you and others --
I'm not worried about him as long as that Constitution
the State of Oklahoma stays there and keeps them at it.
I would enforce the Constitution of Oklahoma.
Well, why don't you. I think that's not a bad idea. Do
you mean to tell me that unenforced corporations drove your Dad to these
straits that he told us about?
It's a big part of it, that's true. All around America,
that's exactly right.
And they're getting all these big farm subsidies and tax
subsidies to do it.
You suggested, at one point, that farming should be made
attractive to keep people from moving to our crowded cities.
Wouldn't it be more sensible to make it attractive for
business and industry, light industries appropriately, to move out into what
is now strictly rural territory and so thin out the ghettos just a little
bit? Isn't that the appropriate direction rather than subsidizing some kind
of a green rural Arcadia where people will stay and therefore not ——
Senator Harris, I can't, I can't --
You're subsidizing a take-over --
I can't let you answer that question. It's nice
to know where you got that accent. Obviously it was from your Dad, Thanks
very much for being on The Advocates again. Mr. Miller, you have one minute
to summarize your case.
The case of Tenneco is instructive, because it does
different things. It owns 130,000 acres of land in the San Joaquin Valley
and its large landholdings contribute to a more depressed economic pattern
for all the towns around these large landholdings. It would have to sell
those landholdings under the bill. It could however, like any other
corporation, buy produce and sell it and market it and advertise it. The
bill doesn't stop that. What the bill goes to is the effect on rural
America, the harmful effect of the large landholdings, subsidized not
because they are more efficient, not like the supermarket that drives the
corner grocery store out of business, that is on a level of competition, but
because the large corporations work on a different balance sheet. They can
afford losses, they get the tax write-off. Let's have genuine competition
based on what agriculture can do.
Thank you, Mr. Miller. Mr. Rusher, you too have
one minute to summarize your case.
To hear Mr. Miller talk, you would think that tonight’s
proposal will chase Wall Street out of farming, reduce tensions in our
cities and transform rural America into a bucolic landscape of small, green,
family farms. But the real effect of this bill, as Professor Williams
pointed out, would be to create havoc among thousands of partnerships and
similar enterprises which, by no stretch of the imagination can be called
giant conglomerates, but which produce two thirds of America's food. And
even driving out the few conglomerates would only force farmers like Don
Mitchell, the date farmer who you saw earlier who works with the
conglomerates, back to uneconomic methods. Ultimately into bankruptcy. Is
that progress? Wouldn't it be far better for Mr. Miller and Senator Nelson
and Senator Harris to devote their talents to helping to train or relocate
the 60% of America's farmers who earn less than $1,700 a year. Perhaps there
are votes to be had by blaming the ills of American agriculture on the
larger operations that inevitably accompany progress. But in the long run,
everybody pays for such demagoguery. The taxpayer, the consumer and even the
small farmer himself. I urge you to vote no on tonight's question.
Thank you, gentlemen. And now it's time for you
at home to act and to express your views on tonight's question. And it's
important that you do so because Senators and Congressmen and others who are
in government have told us how closely they follow The Advocates and
particularly The Advocates poll. Those opinions that you, our viewers send
in. Over half a million letters have been received since The Advocates poll
first started two and a half years ago. So, write us. The Advocates, Box
1972, Boston 02134. And, as week in and week out The Advocates debate
questions calling for action by the people who represent us in government,
it is a way for you at home to register your views on what America should be
doing and to know that these views will be counted and that the results will
be passed on to the people who represent you in Washington. So, we urge you
to write for the common good that results when a government knows how the
citizens feel about the vital issues of the day. Yes or no — what do you
think? The question on which you'll be voting: Should large corporations be
driven out of farming? Remember that address: The Advocates, Box 1972,
Boston 02134. Recently, The Advocates debated the question: Should the
states raise all public school funds and distribute them equally? Of the
more than 2,700 viewers across the country who sent us their votes, 1,562 or
57% were in favor of the proposal, and 1,151 or 42% were opposed. 24
expressed other views. And now, let's look ahead to next week.
(on film) The sale of sex is estimated to be a two
and a half billion dollar a year business. It is viewed by many as not only
a tragedy, but an affront to any decent society. Some sociologists, however,
feel that while prostitution may be both degrading and exploitive, it is, at
worst, a victimless crime and law enforcement could better spend its time
and energies in combatting more serious problems of violence and robbery, as
well as white collar embezzlement and government corruption. Should
prostitution be legalized? A question next time for The Advocates. (end of
Thanks to our advocates and to our witnesses. I'm
Michael Dukakis. Please join us again next week at the same time. Thank you
The Advocates, as a program, takes no position
on the question debated tonight. Our job is to help you understand both
sides more clearly.