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Senator HUMPHREY. May I say that I think the matter of the transfer of funds is a safeguard. Insofar as the giving of notice is concerned, Mr. Brannan in his testimony--and I have the testimony before me-made very clear to the committee that that was the intention of the Secretary of the Department; also, the matter of consultation. It was not included in the plan because, very frankly, that is a sort of window dressing in the plan when you read what it
It says that In case of any proposed major change, appropriate advance notice shall be given to the extent deemed practicable, and interested persons shall be accorded appropriate apportunity to place before the Department their views with respect to the proposed redistribution of functions. It is not intended by this provision that the redistribution of functions shall be accompanied by a formal rulemaking procedure.
In other words, wbat that means is that the Administrative Procedure Act does not apply. It does mean consultation. But that at its best is just consultation. The Secretary may still proceed once the authority has been given. Is that correct?
Senator McCLELLAN. Senator Humphrey, would you yield for a question at that point?
Senator HUMPHREY. Yes; I yield.
Senator McCLELLAN. The point that occurs to me about that is that I think this is a very fine expression of general policy. But there is no law to prohibit that being done now.
Senator HUMPHREY. None at all.
Senator McCLELLAN. In other words, a good Secretary of Agriculture, I think, would do that without anything being in the plan.
Senator HUMPHREY. I would hope that he would, and I am sure, as Secretary Benson has pointed out, that he will, and I think that is very commendable. But I think that the Senator is right. Good, sound procedure, or at least safe procedure, would require that one do a little consultation.
Secretary Benson. I hope that our procedure will be safe and sound, too, Senator. I do not look upon it as window dressing. I think that I am under obligation to do that very thing.
Senator HUMPHREY. I appreciate your statement.
Secretary BENSON. Under obligation to the Congress and obligation to agriculture, as well as to my associates, who feel, I am sure, as I do. And so we will, of course, plan to do that same thing.
Senator AIKEN. Will you yield?
Senator AIKEN. I just asked the Senator from Minnesota if he would yield for a minute, because I have to leave.
I simply want to say that in recommending consultation with Members of Congress, the Secretary is preaching what he is already practicing. A good many times he has come on to the Hill sometimes to talk with members of the Agriculture Committees, and sometimes with groups representing commodities which were under discussion at that time.
I well recall the discussions relating to the livestock situation which for a while looked very critical, and it is, even now, although it is looking a little better. At one time a group from the Department discussed with members from the cotton-growing States the matter of support for cottonseed and its products.
Another time there was discussion on the dairy situation, and the moot question of whether butter should be supported and at what level. Again, Congress has been consulted in regard to exports and imports, with particular reference to the International Wheat Agreement.
I am sure that when the Secretary has discussed these matters with Congress, he had not already reached a decision as to what he was going to do. I am satisfied as to that.
On at least one occasion, I am inclined to think that after discussion with members of the farm group and with Members of Congress, he did what he thought he was not going to do before he had the discussions.
So I think he does take these consultations very seriously. These have been in addition to the regular committee hearings.
So I want to say that when he makes that statement today, he is simply preaching what he has already practiced.
Senator HUMPHREY. I surely respect the Secretary's words. He is a man of great integrity, and I accept those words.
Secretary BENSON. Thank you, Senator.
Senator HUMPHREY, I want to say that I do not believe that it is an uncharacteristic practice. I believe that the Department of Agriculture has been generally on safe and constructive ground throughout the years in the matter of consultation, having appropriate advisory committees. I think it would be fair to point out, however, that the advisory committees are not necessarily elected by the constituent groups. They are selected.
I only make note of that, and I appreciate the need of doing that in order to get committees to work.
Secretary BENSON. I think that this is a very important point, Senator, and only emphasizes, in my mind, the importance of the executive branch consulting with the elected representatives of the people, namely, the Congress.
Senator HUMPHREY. Mr. Reynolds of the staff was kind enough to bring to me a mimeographed document relating to plan No. 4, some information that I asked for a couple of years ago in reference to the responsible officials of the respective agencies of the Department of Agriculture. For example, who is the responsible official for the Agricultural Research Administration? It is the Secretary. And I have a notation here from the public law.
The same is true of the Production and Marketing Administration, the Commodity Exchange Authority, the Extension Service, thé Forest Service, the Soil Conservation Service, the Farmers' Home Administration, and Rural Electricfication Administration.
In other words, the power vests in the Secretary over these respective units of the Department; is that correct, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary BENSON. Senator, may I ask our Solicitor to comment on that, from a legal standpoint?
Senator HUMPHREY. Yes, indeed.
Mr. Loos. Senator, I think you are referring to a tabulation of the various agencies of the Department with reference to the source of their statutory authority.
Senator HUMPHREY. Correct, sir.
Mr. Loos. That is not entirely complete. It is correct in the fact that the law cited originally placed the functions in the Secretary, the functions of the agencies that you named. But, for example, in the case of the Forest Service, since the Forest Service was established, there have been a number of acts of Congress conferring powers and duties and responsibilities which have referred to vesting them in the Forest Service and not in the Secretary.
There is a great area of doubt as to just where the Secretary's power begins and ends with respect to some of those matters.
The same is true of the Rural Electrification Administration and the Farmers' Home Administration. Those both came into the Department through previous reorganizations.
Senator HUMPHREY. That is correct.
Mr. Loos. And since then there have been other acts passed which have referred to the Rural Electrification Administration and the Farmers' Home Administration, and so forth, without referring to the Secretary.
So the reason we have listed the Farmers' Home Administration, Rural Electrification Administration, Soil Conservation Service, and Forest Service among these agencies with respect to which the Secretary does not have full power is because there has been, since the original act, legislation that does indicate that powers were vested in the administrative agencies or the head of the agency rather than in the Secretary.
Senator HUMPHREY. In other words, it is your opinion, Mr. Counşeler, that the powers are somewhat ambiguous or doubtful, and therefore the reorganization proposal would clarify that and vest it directly in the Secretary, without doubt?
Mr. Loos. That is exactly the situation.
Senator HUMPHREY. Because of the amendments that have come about since the basic law?
Mr. Loos. That is correct.
Senator HUMPHREY. Now I know that the Secretary will want to help us on this matter because I want to raise some of the points that have come up, Mr. Secretary, and I think, the trouble or the argument over the reorganization proposal. Take, for example, this question: What plans would you have with respect to the matter of the agricultural conservation payments, the ACP, and the SCS, soil conservation, programs? Can you give us any idea as to what your present thinking is on that, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary BENSON. I, as you know, went before the Appropriations Committees, the subcommittees in the Senate and the House.
Senator HUMPHREY. Yes.
Secretary BENSON. At that time, we made certain recommendations regarding the budget. We recommended some reduction in the $250 million authorization for conservation payments for the 1954 program, feeling that probably we could still carry on, still have sufficient funds to carry on, the permanent practices and to make payments to farmers for the application of fertilizers and getting new stands started.
But we felt that some of the annual payments after stands were established could probably be reduced considerably. And it was on the basis of that, largely, that we made the recommendation, and also
the possibility of some saving in administration for that particular phase of the program.
Does that in part answer what you have in mind?
Senator HUMPHREY. Do you have any general idea now as to whether or not you would transfer those programs to any other units within the Department?
Secretary BENSON. We have felt, as far as our thinking has gone Senator, that the ACP program ought to be fairly close to the Soil Conservation Service-it is conservation and that there was a relationship there that justified us in transferring that particular program so that it would be in the same program group as the Soil Conservation Service.
Senator HUMPHREY. Yes.
Secretary BENSON. Now, we have felt that there probably is some duplication in some of the agencies serving the farmer out in the field. I have always felt personally that the Extension Service, for example, was largely an educational agency, and that probably the action agencies, or the action programs, ought to be carried on through action agencies.
Senator HUMPHREY. In other words, to preserve that demarcation between your educational services and your action programs?
Secretary BENSON. Yes. That has been my thinking.
Now, we have not gone very far in the study of those agencies and the relationship between those agencies at the State and county level. We think, however, that there should be a very comprehensive and careful study made, because we continue to have some complaints come to us from farmers that there are too many Federal representatives visiting their farms and telling them what to do.
That is a bad thing; and if there is justification for it, we would like to know it, naturally. I am sure the Congress would, also.
Senator HUMPHREY. Now, I want to mention another issue that comes up, about another unit. I am being very candid with you. I figure we might just as well get these out in the open rather than talking around them.
Secretary Benson. Surely. You have that reputation, Senator, and I am very happy to have you speak candidly.
Senator HUMPHREY. May I say that you have, too?
Senator HUMPHREY. Maybe together we can be a little bit helpful here.
Secretray BENSON. I hope we can.
Senator HUMPHREY. Now, about the Farmers' Home Administration. As Senator Anderson pointed out, he looked upon it in a different light than he did the Farm Credit Administration. The Farmers' Home Administration has a unique kind of service to perform, as I think he put it, a sort of soft credit policy.
Is it your intention to dismantle the Farmers' Home Administration? Do you intend to keep it intact, sir, or what are your intentions with reference to it?
Secretary BENSON. I certainly have no intention of dismantling it, Senator. I do have an intention of studying it very carefully. I do feel that the Farm Credit and Farmers' Home operate in different fields.
Senator HUMPHREY. Yes.
Secretary BENSON. The Farm Credit Administration is an old line credit agency, to extend solid credit, while the Farmers' Home can be looked upon in a measure, at least, as an emergency type of credit agency, to serve those who are not able to get their credit needs from established credit agencies.
I would question very much the wisdom of trying to consolidate those two agencies. It seems to me that they are operating in separate fields. But there again we have not pursued our studies in the detail that I think they should be and will be later.
Senator HUMPHREY. Now, I notice that the Farmers' Home Administration organization is fixed by the statute.
Secretary BENSON. Yes.
Senator HUMPHREY. Would this reorganization plan, Mr. Secretary, give the Secretary the privilege of reorganizing the Farmers' Home Administration even though the statutory organization is set?
Secretary BENSON. I would have to check that from a legal standpoint, Senator. Mr. Loos thinks that probably it would give the Secretary the authority.
Senator HUMPHREY. It would supersede it?
Secretary BENSON. It would give the Secretary authority. However, I have not checked it carefully myself.
Senator HUMPHREY. Now, moving down to concern about another agency that is highly regarded yet sometimes controversial, as you know. The National Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, I believe, has gone on record in opposition to this reorganization plan. I believe that is correct. Is that not so?
Secretary BENSON. I did not know that. If it is true, that is their prerogative, of course.
Senator HUMPHREY. I think that I have heard that.
Secretary BENSON. I was away at the time. I guess that is the reason it slipped by me.
Senator HUMPHREY. I am sure that their concern is over the autonomy of the REA. It has had a very fine record. The statute concerning REA-I have here the committee documentation on this—the authority is vested in the Secretary, but the statute makes it quite clear that it must be administered through the Rural Electrification Administrator.
Now, the fear is--I hope it is an unfounded fear-that the reorganization proposal may result in the dismantling of the Rural Electrification Administration, in other words, taking certain functions of the Rural Electrification Administration and dispersing them through several units in the Department, the credit functions, for example, of the REA. Then, of course, there are the technical aspects of REA.
What is your thinking on that, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary BENSON. I certainly have not reached any conclusion that any of the important functions of REA would be distributed to other agencies. I have been intensely interested in the work of REA.
I Senator HUMPHREY. I know you have. Secretary Benson. It goes way back even beyond REA, really. I know what it is to live in a home without electricity. I remember very well when electric lights came into our home when I was a boy on the farm. We did not have REA in those days, but the farmers joined together, and through cooperative effort, got out their own