Remarks at a Meeting With Members of the Agricultural Community in Sedalia, Missouri

August 19, 1984

Thank you, Governor Bond. Before we get started, I want you to know how pleased I am to get a chance to meet with all of you here in Missouri. I know the Vice President, as Kit told us, has met some of you on the Governor's Advisory Council on Agriculture in Columbia last April. And I won't get to see the university on this trip, but I'm delighted to be here at the State fair.

Being a farmer has been anything but easy in these last several years. From our first day in office, we've been trying to help the farm community recover from past policy mistakes, economic difficulties, and I think we have turned a corner. With the task of writing up a new farm bill for 1985 before us, we're looking to get American farmers and agribusiness leaders' thoughts and ideas on the issues that we'll be addressing.

Jack Block has already been holding listening sessions in Chicago, Riverside, Atlanta, Syracuse, Dallas, and plans to hold another on September 6th in Davenport, Iowa. He would have been with me here today, except there's something going on in Dallas, and -- [laughter] -- and he's gone down there.

But he's heard from over 200 farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness representatives from all over the country, and he's received over 1,000 pages of written testimony. We think this input from those who know the farm business inside-out and whose lives are most affected by farm legislation will make our new farm bill the best that we've ever had.

And now, I'm going to turn the program over to your director of agriculture, Jim Boillot. And I'll listen.

[At this point, several participants in the meeting made brief statements. The President then resumed speaking.]

Thank you.

Well, let me just say I'm sorry that we've run out of time in hearing these. And as you've seen, I've been making a few notes up here.

We intend to have, and are going to have, a very comprehensive approach to this whole thing now that we're coming to the time for a new farm program.

And I told you of what Jack Block has been doing, the other information that he's been gathering, and I can assure you that all of these matters are going to be very much on our minds as we try to find an answer to this.

The one question there with regard to the deficit -- believe me, I've been making speeches out on the mashed-potato circuit for years about deficit spending. It was a regular part of government policy over the last 50 years. Now, all of a sudden, it isn't a part of government policy -- it's mine. [Laughter] And I'm responsible. But we recognize the threat in those, and we are embarked on a program. We believe that as this economic recovery continues, I am optimistic about what we're going to see in that regard, and the increased position in government revenues, and so forth.

I want you to know in spite of all the things that you've heard, where someone has said that a tax increase is the first resort, tax increases in my book will always be a last resort. We have no plans for a tax increase. We are going to continue along the lines that we have in trying to get further government reductions in spending. We don't think that we have begun to get eliminated all the fat that is in government.

Now, I know that some people on the other side say, ``Well, what would you eliminate in the line of spending?'' Well, I think that's an argument they've been using for, again, about 50 years, to justify their spending. My approach to it is, ``How do we get government programs administered more efficiently and more economically and with less overhead, and still fill government's responsibility?''

And right now, we have before us 2,478 specific recommendations by the Grace commission. Peter Grace headed up a group to do something that we did in California, and we had 2,000 leaders from every activity volunteer to help in that. And that is the result, these recommendations. We have a task force working virtually around the clock on this -- we've already been able to implement some that we can just simply do administratively; many will take legislation -- but to see what of these -- we don't say that all of them are going to turn out to be things that are practical -- but to see how much we can implement these. And as I say, the goal is to get rid of the inefficiencies and the uneconomic things that government is doing.

You've spoken on a number of things that I've had some familiarity with myself -- soil erosion, and so forth. All of these, as I say, are going to get our best thinking on how we approach the new farm program. And there aren't any of us that are not aware of the basic importance of agriculture. It is the very basis of an economy any place. And the remarks about subsidized competition, believe me, we have been leaning on our friends from abroad quite heavily on this very matter and even have taken advantage of some opportunities, like one with regard to flour in Egypt recently, to show them that we weren't going to stand back and let this go on. We believe in free trade, but we believe in fair trade, and we're going to keep on.

We have a friend in Japan that is doing everything he can to meet some of our problems there with regard to a farm market -- marketing in Japan. Like the President, he can't just issue an order, he's got a legislature, too. [Laughter]

But I think we are making some headway here. And I do know of the seriousness of your problems, not only from nature in the last few years but the seriousness of the economic problems.

One of the problems -- we're all very proud of the fact, and I think it's a great advantage that we've been able to reduce inflation. But on the other hand, when you had runaway inflation over the long period of time that you had, you had an economy that became geared to a continuing inflation. And the comedown from that has difficulties as well, just as you have spoken here with regard to depreciating land values once inflation has gone on to the downward trend. But we're going to keep on staying ahead of that.

And as to interest rates, I think there's been some indication just recently that the long-term notes, there has begun to be a certain slide. I have said before and I'll say again, I think the only justification for the high interest rates right now is the inability out in the money markets and the business community to believe that we really have gotten a handle on inflation. They're looking over their shoulder, and they're charging interest rates accordingly. And maybe the market recently is an indication that they're beginning to become true believers.

But we're not going to resort to a quick fix and try to get back to the old-fashioned way that we've had over the seven or eight recessions since World War II of an artificial stimulant to try and end the so-called recessions, and all they did was bring on another inflation -- or another recession a few years later that was worse than the one before. This time, I think we're on the way to a real recovery and a solid expansion. And you've got to be able to share in that, too. And we're going to do our utmost to see that you do.

Now, I know that I'm holding you up from that sale of champions that's already underway over there in the Coliseum. And believe me, all these things that I've heard here will be acted upon.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:27 p.m. in the Youth Building Cafeteria on the Missouri State fairgrounds. He was introduced by Gov. Christopher (Kit) S. Bond.

Following the meeting, the President went to the shorthorn barn to view a livestock display and then proceeded to the coliseum, where he watched the Junior Champion Auction and addressed the fairgoers.