From Fourth International, Vol.10 No.6, June 1949, p.191
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The following article is reprinted from the Minnesota Farmers Union Herald of April 1, 1949 where it was featured in the editorial columns as representing the views of the editors. We are publishing it as a clear expression of the views of the working farmers and a defense of their interests on the question of parity against the attacks of a capitalist journalist.
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In the Minneapolis Star of March 24 and the Sunday Tribune of March 27, Arthur Upgren again tries to convince the farmer that he, the farmer, is something less than, a 100 per cent citizen.
His first column complains about an article in the GTA Digest. There, an exposure was made of industry’s plan to shift part of its pay rolls onto the back of the farmer by depressing agricultural prices below parity. Upgren reveals a rather illogical bias by suggesting that the farmer, by opposing 60 per cent of parity, is also bound to oppose any downward adjustment from the unusual and shortlived post-war highs. We are not going to be impaled on the horns of Upgren’s dilemma. We do not expect a guarantee of 140 per cent of parity; we will not accept 60 per cent; we demand the altogether reasonable alternative of 100 per cent parity. The word “parity” is defined as equality. By its very inherent meaning, the word does not lend itself to any percentage figure other than 100 per cent. Anything less is a libel on Noah Webster and a fraud on the American farmer. Upgren belittles the “last ounce” of full parity. Forty per cent is a pretty big “test ounce,” considering the fact that it includes all of the farmer’s wages and a good portion of his out-of-pocket expenses.
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Upgren’s arguments are numerous, if faulty. He suggests that farmers should accept a lower price because their per man productivity is increasing. Increased productivity has resulted from longer work days, due to labor shortages; use of more expensive methods and machinery; and introduction of better yielding, and consequently more soil depleting, crop varieties. If the farmer is not to enjoy the fruits of his increased productivity, then who is? Upgren does not say. The GTA Digest does say – the factory owner.
Upgren also suggests that flexible supports may stay at 90 per cent under the present law. I fear he overestimates the credulity of working farmers. Long experience with government in agriculture leads us to believe that “flexible” supports will be flexible only one way – down, and all the way down. Most proponents of the present law conceal the fact that it provides for only 75 per cent supports for a “normal” crop, as well as the fact that the parity base itself will be cut 12 to 22 per cent on major crops.
This has been accomplished by dropping the 1909-1914 base, and substituting the averagd price for the last ten years. This gerrymander will include years of depression and wartime controls that work to the disadvantage of the farmers. Likewise – Upgren tries to confuse with the arbitrary selection of unrepresentative base years, and the use of price indices without corresponding data on cost of production.
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Upgren tries to play the factory worker off against the farmer. Because the factory worker does not get a “parity” unemployment benefit, the farmer should not be entitled to a fair price for the product of his labor. We do not believe that two wrongs make a right; nor do we appreciate being made a party to a “divide and rule” philosophy. A guaranteed decent standard of living for city workers would insure, more than anything else, a healthy farm prosperity.
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As adjuncts to 100 per cent parity, Upgren resurrects the bogeymen of “control” and “regimentation.” “Control” implies planning, and planning is a fundamental necessity in our complex modern world. The alternative to planning is anarchy. “Regimentation” is a danger only if working farmers surrender their inalienable right to do their own planning. Planning by farmers for farmers is not regimentation. It is the highest expression of the democratic process.
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In his second column, Upgren says that “net farm income has increased more rapidly since 1939 than any other group except corporate profits.” Another way to say the same thing is that corporate profits have increased faster than the income of either farmers or city workers. This obvious fact is no argument against guaranteeing the farmer a decent wage through decent prices. He still takes all of the risks inherent in nature – drought, flood, hail, insects, and a host of others.
Upgren compares net farm income with net corporate profits. But net farm income is figured before computing the operators’ wages and income taxes. Corporate profits are figured after payment of huge salaries to many owner-executives and after income taxes. A tremendous portion of wartime and postwar corporation profits have been concealed in hidden items such as excessive charges to depreciation and other reserves, gifts or near-gifts of buildings and equipment from the government, tax rebates and the like.
He also compares net income per farm with industrial wages and cost of living. Again he leaves out of consideration the facts that farms are averaging bigger, huge corporation farms are included, the farmers are working longer hours and using more family help, and increased investment in farm machinery creates a heavy interest factor which cannot be included as wages.
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Another absurdity on his graph shows industrial wages increasing more rapidly than the cost of living since 1945. Ask any city worker or housewife, and they will tell you the extent of this falsehood. It is no secret that the average worker has had to spend most of his wartime savings, as well as all of his. wages, to keep up with skyrocketing living costs. Since 1940, factory workers have increased per-man productivity by 25 per cent, but are getting paid 20 per cent less in terms of buying power per unit produced. By the same standard that he applies to farmers, Upgren would consider this fair also.
He admits to a “common resolve that farmers shall not be exposed to demand and supply conditions which are so disastrous.” He admits that these conditions produced farm prices at 55 per cent of parity in 1932. His implied solution is to retain the present bill which guarantees only 60 per cent of a degraded parity – actually less than the abomination of 1932.
Last updated on: 7 March 2009