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ment is in a sound financial condition. These immediate results were especially due to the administration of Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood. The six years of his governorship marked a distinct improvement in the islands and rank as one of the outstanding accomplishments of this distinguished man. His death is a loss to the Nation and the islands.
Greater progress could be made, more efficiency could be put into administration, if the Congress would undertake to expend, through its appropriating power, all or a part of the customs revenues which are now turned over to the Philippine treasury. The powers of the auditor of the islands also need revision and clarification. The government of the islands is about 98 per cent in the hands of the Filipinos. An extension of the policy of self-government will be hastened by the demonstration on their part of their desire and their ability to carry out cordially and efficiently the provisions of the organic law enacted by the Congress for the government of the islands. It would be well for a committee of the Congress to visit the islands every two years.
A fair degree of progress is being made in Porto Rico. Its agricultural products are increasing; its treasury position, which has given much concern, shows improvement. I am advised by the governor that educational facilities are still lacking. Roads are being constructed, which he represents are the first requisite for building schoolhouses. The loyalty of the island to the United States is exceedingly gratifying. A memorial will be presented to you requesting authority to have the governor elected by the people of Porto Rico. This was never done in the case of our own Territories. It is admitted that education outside of the towns is as yet very deficient. Until it has progressed further the efficiency of the government and the happiness of the people may need the guiding hand of an appointed governor. As it is not contemplated that any change should be made immediately, the general subject may well have the thoughtful study of the Congress.
The number of commercial ships passing through the Panama Canal has increased from 3,967 in 1923 to 5,475 in 1927. The total amount of tolls turned into the Treasury is over $166,000,000, while all the operations of the canal have yielded a surplus of about $80,000,000. In order to provide additional storage of water and give some control over the floods of the Chagres River, it is proposed to erect a dam to cost about $12,000,000 at Alhajuela. It will take some five years to complete this work.
The past year has seen a marked improvement in the general condition of agriculture. Production is better balanced and without acute shortage or heavy surplus. Costs have been reduced and the average output of the worker increased. The level of farm prices has risen, while others have fallen, so that the purchasing power of the farmer is approaching a normal figure. The individual farmer is entitled to great credit for the progress made since 1921. He has adjusted his production and through cooperative organizations and other methods improved his marketing. He is using authenticated facts and employing sound methods which other industries are obliged to use to secure stability and prosperity. The old-fashioned haphazard system is being abandoned, economics are being applied to ascertain the best adapted unit of land, diversification is being promoted, and scientific methods are being used in production, and business principles in marketing.
Agriculture has not fully recovered from postwar depression. The fact is that economic progress never marches forward in a straight line. It goes in waves. One part goes ahead, while another halts and another recedes. Everybody wishes agriculture to prosper. Any sound and workable proposal to help the farmer will have the earnest support of the Government. Their interests are not all identical. Legislation should assist as many producers in as many regions as possible. It should be the aim to assist the farmer to work out his own salvation socially and economically. No plan will be of any permanent value to him which does not leave him standing on his own foundation.
In the past the Government has spent vast sums to bring land under cultivation. It is apparent that this has reached temporarily the saturation point. We have had a surplus of production and a poor market for land, which has only lately shown signs of improvement. The main problem which is presented for solution is one of dealing with a surplus of production. It is useless to propose a temporary expedient. What is needed is permanency and stability. Government price fixing is known to be unsound and bound to result in disaster. A Government subsidy would work out in the same way. It can not bo sound for all of the people to hire some of the people to produce a crop which neither the producers nor the rest of the people want.
Price fixing and subsidy will both increase the surplus, instead of diminishing it. Putting the Government directly into business is merely a combination of subsidy and price fixing aggravated by political pressure. These expedients would lead logically to telling the farmer by law what and how much he should plant and where he should plant it, and what and how much he should sell and where he should sell it. The most effective means of dealing with surplus crops is to reduce the surplus acreage. While this can not be done by the individual farmer, it can be done through the organizations already in existence, through the information published by the Department of Agriculture, and especially through banks and others who supply credit refusing to finance an acreage manifestly too large.
It is impossible to provide by law for an assured success and prosperity for all those who engage in farming. If acreage becomes overextended, the Government can not assume responsibility for it. The Government can, however, assist cooperative associations and other organizations in orderly marketing and handling a surplus clearly due to weather and seasonal conditions, in order to save the producer from preventable loss. While it is probably impossible to secure this result at a single step, and much will have to be worked out by trial and rejection, a beginning could be made by setting up a Federal board or commission of able and experienced men in marketing, granting equal advantages under this board to the various agricultural commodities and sections of the country, giving encouragement to the cooperative movement in agriculture, and providing a revolving loan fund at a moderate rate of interest for the necessary financing. Such legislation would lay the foundation for a permanent solution of the surplus problem.
This is not a proposal to lend more money to the farmer, who is already fairly well financed, but to lend money temporarily to experimental marketing associations which will no doubt ultimately be financed by the regularly established banks, as were the temporary operations of the War Finance Corporation. Cooperative marketing especially would be provided with means of buying or building physical properties.
The National Government has almost entirely relieved the farmer from income taxes by successive tax reductions, but State and local taxes have increased, putting on him a grievous burden. A policy of rigid economy should be applied to State and local expenditures. This is clearly within the legislative domain of the States. The Federal Government has also improved our banking structure and system of agricultural credits. The farmer will be greatly benefited by similar action in many States. The Department of Agriculture is undergoing changes in organization in order more completely to separate the research and regulatory divisions, that each may be better administered. More emphasis is being placed on the research program, not only by enlarging the appropriations for State experiment stations but by providing funds for expanding the research work of the department. It is in this direction that much future progress can be expected.
THE PROTECTIVE TARIFF
The present tariff rates supply the National Treasury with well over $600,000,000 of annual revenue. Yet, about 65 per cent of our imports come in duty free. Of the remaining 35 per cent of imports on which duties are laid about 23 per cent consists of luxuries and agricultural products, and the balance of about 12 per cent, amounting to around $560,000,000, is made up of manufactures and merchandise. As no one is advocating any material reduction in the rates on agriculture or luxuries, it is only the comparatively small amount of about $560,000,000 of other imports that are really considered in any discussion of reducing tariff rates. While this amount, duty free, would be large enough seriously to depress many lines of business in our own country, it is of small importance when spread over the rest of the world.
It is often stated that a reduction of tariff rates on industry would benefit agriculture. It would be interesting to know to what commodities it is thought this could be applied. Everything the farmer uses in farming is already on the free list. Nearly everything he sells is protected. It would seem to be obvious that it is better for the country to have the farmer raise food to supply the domestic manufacturer than the foreign manufacturer. In one case our country would have only the farmer; in the other it would have the farmer and the manufacturer. Assuming that Europe would have more money if it sold us larger amounts of merchandise, it is not certain it would consume more food, or, if it did, that its purchases would be made in this country. Undoubtedly it would resort to the cheapest market, which is by no means ours. The largest and best and most profitable market for the farmer in the world is our own domestic market. Any great increase in manufactured imports means the closing of our own plants. Nothing could be worse for agriculture.
Probably no one expects a material reduction in the rates on manufactures while maintaining the rates on agriculture. A material reduction in either would be disastrous to the farmer. It would mean a general shrinkage of values, a deflation of prices, a reduction of wages, a general depression carrying our people down to the low standard of living in our competing countries. It is obvious that this would not improve but destroy our market for imports, which is best served by maintaining our present high purchasing power under which in the past five years imports have increased 63 per cent.
FARM LOAN SYSTEM
It is exceedingly important that the Federal land and joint-stock land banks should furnish the best possible service for agriculture. Certain joint-stock banks have fallen into improper and unsound practices, resulting in the indictment of the officials of three of them. More money has been provided for examinations, and at the instance of the Treasury rules and regulations of the Federal Farm Board have been revised. Early last May three of its members resigned. Their places were filled with men connected with the War Finance Corporation, Eugene Meyer being designated as Farm Loan Commissioner. The new members have demonstrated their ability in the field of agricultural finance in the extensive operations of the War Finance Corporation. Three joint-stock banks have gone into receivership. It is necessary to preserve the public confidence in this system in order to find a market for their bonds. A recent flotation was made at a record low rate of 4 percent. Careful supervision is absolutely necessary to protect the investor and enable these banks to exercise their chief function in serving agriculture.
The last year has seen considerable changes in the problem of Muscle Shoals. Development of other methods show that nitrates can probably be produced at less cost than by the use of hydroelectric power. Extensive investigation made by the Department of War indicates that the nitrate plants on this project are of little value for national defense and can probably be disposed of within two years. The oxidation part of the plants, however, should be retained indefinitely. This leaves this project mostly concerned with power. It should, nevertheless, continue to be dedicated to agriculture. It is probable that this desire can be best served by disposing of the plant and applying the revenues received from it to research for methods of more economical production of concentrated fertilizer and to demonstrations and other methods of stimulating its use on the farm. But in disposing of the property preference should be given to proposals to use all or part of it for nitrate production and fertilizer manufacturing.
For many years the Federal Government has been building a system of dikes along the Mississippi River for protection against high water. During the past season the lower States were overcome by a most disastrous flood. Many thousands of square miles were inundated, a great many lives were lost, much livestock was drowned, and a very heavy destruction of property was inflicted upon the inhabitants. The American Red Cross at once went to the relief of the stricken communities. Appeals for contributions have brought in over $17,000,000. The Federal Government has provided services, equipment, and supplies probably amounting to about $7,000,000 more.