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An excellent loan repayment record has been established. Democracy has been strengthened.
Obviously, the new administration has a different philosophy which approaches, if it is not flatly the philosophy of survival of the fittest, or let the devil take the hindmost.
Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1953 would place in the hands of the new administration the power to destroy the Farmers' Home Administration; to divide its loan and technical assistance functions so they could not be operated so successfully in unison, and thereby in reality change agricultural policy to coincide with the viewpoint of Mr. Morse and Mr. Davis, who advocate scarcity economics and relegate human welfare to a secondary level.
I strongly favor continuation of the democratic, farmer-elected Production and Marketing Administration committee system.
I strongly favor continuation of the independent Soil Conservation Service program.
I strongly favor the Farmers' Home Administration type program of combined credit and technical assistance to disadvantaged farmers.
I am opposed to subjecting the rural electrification program to periodic political changes in leadership.
I desire, and believe that the Congress should retain, the right to pass upon organizational changes within the Department of Agriculture which will affect policy.
I do not contend that the new administration plans to make all these drastic moves, only that the power should not, in any event, be extended. It appears so far as the public is advised, that the Secretary and his staff have no idea what they want to do in the way of reorganization, or exactly why this plan has been proposed, except to acquire additional power.
The farm editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, reporting an interview with Assistant Secretary J. Earl Coke, by members of the Newspaper Farm Editors Association, reported in his April 23 paper:
When a reporter pointed out that the President's advisers, the Secretary's advisory committee, and members of the USDA staff had reviewed the reorganization proposal and asked, "With all due respect, do you mean to say that if the proposal passes Congress nobody here knows what will happen?" Coke replied, “I suspect you are right.”
Under these circumstances, Reorganization Plan No. 2 should be rejected.
Senator Smith. In the President's message, he stated that Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1953 will permit the establishment of a clear line of responsibility and authority from the President through the Secretary of Agriculture down to the lowest level of operations in the Department, and in support of this, the Chair will include in the hearings a chart dated January 4, 1950, showing that there were 20 officials in the Agriculture Department reporting to the Secretary at that time as against 7 presently reporting to him, as indicated in the attached Memorandum No. 1320, Supplement 1, and the chart dated March 10, 1953.
(The chart dated January 4, 1950, faces p. 50.)
(Memorandum No. 1320, supplement 1, and the chart dated March 10, 1953, were submitted for the record by the Secretary of Agriculture, and appear on pp. 143-144.)
Senator Smith. Mr. Paul Opsahl, of the Farmers Union, Huron, S. Dak., is here, and it was hoped that be could be heard today.
Mr. Opsahl, if you wish to come to the stand, the subcommittee will continue until 12:30 or until you have finished your statement.
Mr. OPSAHL. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I do not want to inconvenience this subcommittee in any way. If the Senator has an appointment to meet, and I could have just a few minutes tomorrow, I will be here.
Senator Smith. Senator Mundt asked if you could be here today. We will be glad to hear you at this time if you would like and that will save staying over until tomorrow.
Mr. Opsahl. Thank you very kindly.
Senator Smith. The Chair might state that it is the plan of the subcommittee to meet at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning to continue hearing witnesses that were not heard today, and would wish to be heard. It may be necessary to sit tomorrow afternoon.
Mr. Opsahl, will you state your name and whom you represent? Mr. Opsahl. Yes.
STATEMENT OF PAUL W. OPSAHL, PRESIDENT, SOUTH DAKOTA
FARMERS UNION, HURON, S. DAK.
Mr. Opsahl. Madam Chairman and distinguished members of the committee, my name is Paul W. Opsahl. I am president of the South Dakota Farmers Union, and I have been requested by the membership of upward of 20,000 farm families to appear here this morning in behalf of Senator Russell's Senate resolution relating to the reorganzation of the Department of Agriculture.
I understand that you have before you for consideration a resolution that if enacted would result in disapproval and nullification of the present proposal of the administration to reorganize the United States Department of Agriculture. If this resolution is not approved, the reorganization plan will go into full force and effect in early June.
Basically the reorganization plan, which this resolution would nullify, has two major provisions.
One of these would increase the size of the immediate office of the Secretary of Agriculture by the addition of several more assistant secretaries and their staffs. While I do not see the great pressing need to establish these additional high level positions, I do generally approve the principle that the Secretary of Agriculture should bave sufficient responsible assistants to carry out effectively the duties of the Secretary's office.
I would hope that the establishment of such positions would not block off the access to the Secretary of the agency heads in the Department, nor result in removing the Secretary from close contact with the farmers of this country.
Moreover, I would urge that the assistant secretaries not be made superbureau chiefs assigned to control a combination of specific Department agencies, but that each be assigned to a functional area that cuts across the boundaries of all the agencies.
I suggest that your committee will want to interrogate the Secretary of Agriculture carefully on this point to see in what manner he proposed to utilize the new positions assigned to his Office by this reorganization plan.
The second major change in the Department's organization included in Reorganization Plan No. 2 is to repeal all legislation granting functions, authorities, and responsibilities directly from the Congress to the agency concerned, such as soil-conservation work to Soil Conservation Service, rural electrification and rural telephone loans to REA, and the agricultural conservation program to the community, county, and State farm committees.
All of these delegations under the proposed reorganization would be vested in the Secretary of Agriculture, granting him full authority to assign and reassign functions from one agency to another within the Department.
Under this plan the Secretary would be enabled to assign the private forest protection work of the Forest Service to the Production and Marketing Administration. He would be empowered to require all of the action programs of the Department to be carried out by a single elite corps of newly hired full-time public servants. He would have the authority to transfer the functions of the Soil Conservation Service to the State agricultural extension services; he would have the power to take the ACP program away from the farmer committees and assign that program to the Extension Service or any other existing or newly established agency of the Department.
These transfers of function that I have just listed are only illustrative of the type
of changes that this reorganization plan would grant the power to the Secretary to make. I do not know what the Secretary's plans are in regard to using this huge grant of power that would be given him.
My attitude toward the resolution before you would be largely dependent upon what sorts of major changes in the Department agencies that the Secretary would propose to make if he were given this power. I certainly urge your committee to question the Secretary of Agriculture carefully. We should know whether he means to increase the scope of administrative and operational duties of the democratically elected farmer committeemen or to reduce them to a purely advisory capacity. We need to know whether he proposes to abolish the regional Soil Conservation Service offices, turning their duties and responsibilities over to the State extension services. We should know whether he proposes to remove all research activities from Soil Conservation Service and Forest Service and turn them over to State Experiment Stations.
We are greatly concerned by some of the moves that have already been made in the organization of the Department of Agriculture even before this reorganization plan was submitted to the Congress. Notice General 101 of the Production and Marketing Administration is a big, long step toward pulling the rug from under the farmer committee system. I think that this is unwise and unwarranted. Such changes as are made should be made in the other direction to broaden the scope of the work of farmer committeemen. It was a mistake, in my judgment, to widen the breach between the Department's conservation programs and its agricultural production and income programs, as was done when ACP was taken out of the Production and Marketing Administration, and it, together with the Soil Conservation Service, was lumped together with Extension Service in the Secretary's Office.