In an address at Bradley Univer-sity in September 1956, former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower told the crowd, “Now tonight, my friends, I want to talk some facts to farm people,” although he made it clear that he was not addressing them as a group apart.
He referenced “synthetic farmers behind Washington desks” who love to tell real farmers what to do and how to do it. “You know, farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field,” he said.
The former President went on to discuss farm programs, farm prices, markets and surpluses. In reading the address, it struck me that we are still hashing out these same topics today between government officials and farmers. However, I will be the first to say that agriculture has many friends on the Hill who know first hand the difference between a plow and a pencil and have spent most of their lives in one type of farm field or another.
Yes, there are numerous similarities in the agricultural topics that Eisenhower spoke of that night in Peoria and the topics that we still find relevant today. In striving to provide help and hope to the farmers of his day, the President outlined some new ideas, including “a soil bank,” the Rural Development Program, farm credit and “emergency help to farmers suffering from such natural disasters as floods and droughts.”
Although the haggling between politicians and farmers of today sounds eerily familiar to the scenarios Eisenhower described in his 1956 address to the Illinois crowd, one item he did not mention that we are so fortunate to have access to today is outstanding, cutting-edge technology. In the Southern corn arena, seed companies are stepping up their efforts to provide this region with hybrids containing traits that make it much easier to grow high-yielding, high-quality corn.
And seed treatment technology continues to move forward, too, as one company launches its “power of three” concept that combines a fungicide, an increased rate insecticide and a nematicide. So even if we continue to relate to 53-year-old quotes about pencils and plows when it comes to ag policy, when a Southern corn farmer hits the field today, he goes in with an arsenal of technology that could only be dreamed of in 1956.
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