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Department of Agriculture,
Washington, D. C. THE PRESIDENT,
The White House, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: In your special farm message to the Congress January 9, 1956, you said: “In America, agriculture is more than an industry; it is a way of life. Throughout our history, the family farm has given strength and vitality to our entire social order. We must keep it healthy and prosperous." This report is a brief account of how the Department of Agriculture endeavored in fiscal year 1956 to help our people on the land keep the family farm "healthy and prosperous."
The family farm is changing-getting larger—but it is still the American family farm, strong and free. Agricultural assets are at their alltime peak. Farmland values per acre are record high. More farmers, proportionately, own their farms than ever before. Seven out of 10 own them clear; they have no mortgage debt whatsoever. I could produce many other statistics to prove that the family farm is in a strong position today.
And our family farms are moving toward greater freedom. We have a new and sound approach to farm problems. Instead of government's seeking to take over—to dictate—to dominate—we have the partnership approach. We are working with agriculture. Our aim is to serve.
Throughout this report you will see many specific examples of service by our agencies, by our scientists, our technicians, our administrators; service made possible not only by their own efforts but by the concerted endeavor of all USDA employees, clerical and secretarial, as well as professional. These employees are the muscle and the bone, and the brain of the Department of Agriculture. I pay tribute to them, one and all.
I transmit herewith the annual report of the Department of Agriculture for 1956.
EZRA TAFT BENSON, Secretary of Agriculture.
The Secretary of Agriculture
TURNING THE CORNER
Agriculture seems to have turned the corner. This was the big news in farming in 1956 and it sums up the outlook for 1957.
Agriculture is now in a position to start its upward climb toward a more adequate share in the Nation's record prosperity.
Surpluses are declining and the storage problem has passed its peak. Total and per capita consumptions of food are increasing.
Consumers' income is at an alltime high and we expect it to set another new record in 1957. This means strong demand for food and fiber.
The quantity of our farm exports in fiscal 1956 was at the highest level
in 30 years.
In the surplus disposal program, flexible price supports, and the Soil Bank, we have most of the basic tools we need to help agriculture in its present emergency.
And, most tangible evidence of all, the year 1956 saw an upturn in the net income realized by farm operators—the first such increase since 1951. Actually, there have been only two such increases since 1947. One was in 1951—at the height of the Korean war. The other was in 1956—a year of peace. We anticipate that 1957 will show another gain.
Agriculture has a sound basis on which to build. Farmers have faith in the future.
What brought about the improvement in the agricultural situation? Big demand, of course. Prosperity. Record consumer income. But much is due to the aggressive efforts by farm groups themselves to market their products. And we have aided them by a broad and enlightened program of governmental assistance.
Not only in 1956, but in the past 4 years the U. S. Department of Agriculture has swiftly and effectively met many complex farm problems. Well-timed purchase programs, special merchandising promotion, and other constructive action in commodity markets first slowed the fall, then brought relative stability to farm prices after a sharp 5-year decline.
When drought struck in widespread areas of the country in each of the past 4 years, the Department immediately made low-priced feed and liberal credit available to farmers. This drought problem demands the attention of the State governments as well as the Federal Government as we move ahead to improve the situation.