Remarks to State Officers of the Future Farmers of America

 

July 29, 1987

 

Well, thank you, and I appreciate this opportunity to speak with you, and I hope you're having a good time visiting the Nation's Capital. Unfortunately, we've just suffered through one of the worst heat waves to strike this city in recent years. And if you're feeling a little extra warm right now, I can tell, for us who've been here for several days, this is a day that cooled off. [Laughter] But weather trouble, of course, is nothing new to anyone that's concerned with farming. You'd be surprised how many people don't realize how precarious farming is because of the weather.

 

I was in Las Vegas some years ago to address the annual Farm Bureau meeting. And on my way to the hall, a fellow recognized me and asked what I was doing in Las Vegas. And I told him what I was there for. And he said what are a bunch of farmers doing in a place like Las Vegas? And I couldn't resist. I said, ``Buster, they're in a business that makes a Las Vegas crap table look like a guaranteed annual income.'' [Laughter]

 

Well, I'm afraid that we're never going to be able to fully come to grips with the problems weather creates for the farmer. We can, however, do our best to eliminate those problems that government creates for farmers. That's exactly what we've been trying to do in these last 6\1/2\ years. I hope when you get home that you'll relay my best wishes to your families and let them know that I'm aware of serious hardships still facing segments of America's farming community and that I care deeply about those who are still struggling.

 

What we face are maladies inherited from the last decade. The devastating inflation of the waning years of the 1970's damaged our country to a far greater degree than many realize. The price of land, because of inflation, was going up in those days, and as a result, many farmers overextended themselves buying new property. And I might add, certain government agencies may have encouraged that course of action. Then in the 3 years prior to 1980, farm costs shot right through the roof. It was the largest 3-year jump in the cost of farming in the history of America, a nearly 50-percent increase, which is about $44 billion in real terms. Is there any wonder that a large number of farmers ended up behind the eight ball?

 

Well, since getting to Washington, we've done our best to get this situation straightened out. We started by putting in place economic policies which brought inflation under control, gradually brought down the interest rates, and revitalized our economy. As is abundantly clear, most of the economy has adjusted and now is on an upward track. I'll be the first, however, to point out that the job is not done and that there are farm families still caught in bad times. We're working diligently to make certain that everyone in America benefits from the growing prosperity.

 

Every time I'm out here talking and that happens, I suspect they're all Democrats. [The President referred to noise caused by an airplane flying overhead.] [Laughter]

 

You know, there's a story about a pig and a chicken, and they got tired of farm life and decided to find jobs in town. They no sooner arrived in town when the chicken spotted a sign in the window of a restaurant. It said, ``Ham and Eggs, $1.25.'' And the chicken suggested they go in and apply. And the pig said, ``Wait a minute. For you, this job only requires a contribution; for me, it's a total commitment.'' [Laughter] I just want all of you to know that we're not going to be satisfied with just making a contribution to America's farmers; we are totally committed to a strong and vibrant American agricultural economy. We've set our sights on long range goals that will well serve you, the Future Farmers of America. In recent years, we've been pushing ever more aggressively to open markets for your goods. And that's part of an ongoing process, and it will continue.

 

However, we've also set forth a bold new initiative that may revolutionize American agriculture and that of the entire free world. It's the most ambitious proposal for world agricultural reform ever offered. We're calling for a total phaseout of all policies that distort trade in agriculture by the end of the century. And over a 10-year period, we want to see all of our major trading partners opening the borders, tearing down the barriers, and ending the export subsidies for agricultural goods. If we're successful, agriculture throughout the Western World will be set free from political controls and interference.

 

I happen to believe that, when it comes to farming, the decisionmaking shouldn't be in the hands of the politicians, academics, or bureaucrats. It should be in the hands of the farmers. Thomas Jefferson once said: ``State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor, and the former will decide it as well, and often better, than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.'' Well, it's time to get the artificial rules out of the way and get back to fundamentals like freedom, private property, and supply and demand. We're looking forward with you to the day when you'll be the proud, free producers of our country's and the rest of the world's food and fiber.

 

I want to take this opportunity to thank you, the Future Farmers of America, for all it is doing to prepare young Americans for the challenge that lies ahead. If we're successful in putting our reforms in place, we're counting on you to beat the pants off the competition, and all America is confident that you will. A special congratulations to your national president, Kevin Eblen. I'm impressed with all the fine things this organization has accomplished and will continue to accomplish under his leadership.

 

And there are two other individuals I'd like to single out. First is Scott Sooy. He was born without a hand, and yet he has more than made up for that disability with good sense, hard work, and an indomitable spirit. He's vice president of Ohio's FFA and is helping run a 183-acre farm and will soon attend college. Scott, you're terrific. Then there's a former vice president of the Washington State FFA, a courageous young man who serves not only as an inspiration to future farmers but to all young Americans. Due to a diving accident, he lost the use of his legs and only has partial use of his arms and torso. Nevertheless, Don Hayden's can-do attitude and aggressive lifestyle is a tribute to American spirit. This year he climbed Mount Rainier and right into the hearts of everyone who heard about this effort. Don, you're not only demonstrating that no one should ever give up, you're encouraging people, through your example, to live life to its fullest. Your family and friends and your President are proud of you.

 

And let me just say I'm proud of all of you. I've met America's young people all over this great land. Your energy and enthusiasm for life have kept me going at times. And I can only say -- and I've never lost sight of this -- what we're doing here is for you. I know you'll never let us down, and I promise we'll never let you down.

 

Enjoy your stay here in the Nation's Capital. Have a safe journey home, and God bless you all.

 

Note: The President spoke at 1:12 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.