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EFFECT OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS ON RURAL AMERICA
TUESDAY, JUNE 6, 1967
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:30 a.m., in room 1302, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Joseph Y. Resnick (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Resnick, Poage, Nichols, Montgomery, Goodling, and Mathias.
Also present: Martha Hannah, subcommittee clerk; and Fowler C. West, assistant staff consultant.
Mr. RESNICK. We will open the hearings of the Rural Development Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture. The purpose of these hearings is to see how various Federal programs, especially the newer Federal programs, are reaching and affecting the people in rural America. In particular, we are looking at the impact they have, whether this money is reaching them, whether these programs are reaching them, and just how much good the programs are doing.
At this time our first witness is Secretary of Agriculture, the Honorable Orville Freeman.
STATEMENT OF HON. ORVILLE L. FREEMAN, SECRETARY OF
AGRICULTURE, ACCOMPANIED BY ROBERT E. NIPP OF THE FARMERS HOME ADMINISTRATION
Mr. FREEMAN. Mr. Chairman, Congressman Montgomery, I appreciate the opportunity to come here on the opening of testimony on this very, very important, complicated and complex and sometimes misunderstood program and challenge.
With your leave, Mr. Chairman, I am going to do something that I have not done in the many times I have appeared before this committee and others in Congress, that is, to respond to that old Chinese admonition that a picture is worth a thousand words, and to show some slides that I think tell a story much more effectively than words alone could do, a story of progress, a story of example as to what can be done.
When I became Secretary of Agriculture in 1961, farmers and their rural neighbors in the thousands of small communities and towns across America were faced with almost insurmountable problems. They had seen the passing years extinguish the flame of rural opportunity. And they had few tools with which to fight back.
The pendulum of prosperity and better living had swung toward the cities where one could find jobs, social services, community facilities, and good housing.
Growing numbers of rural people were hearing the call and the mass exodus toward cities threatened to completely depopulate the countryside. By 1961, rural outmigration had reached 3 million Americans a year.
The flight of Americans to the cities has not stopped, but it has slowed and in some communities it has reversed. That is progress.
Congress has provided over the last 612 years a number of legislative measures which are generating new opportunities in the countryside.
These tools are helping us to demonstrate that the quality of living in rural America can be just as high, just as fruitful, as in the cities.
I brought with me today the stories of progress in two rural areasthe Lower Collins community in Warren County, Tenn., and Little River County in Arkansas.
There are many other success stories like them.
Since time does not permit I ask that the Tennessee statement which is documented with color slides be entered in the record.
Mr. RESNICK. Without objection, so ordered and will follow your statement.
Mr. FREEMAN. I have a set of slides to illustrate the revitalization in Little River County, Ark. But, before I do that, let me quickly outline the progress that has taken place there beginning in 1961 and accelerated since 1964.
This information is based on 21 economic indicators used in a study by our economic research service plus a study carried out by the Arkansas Bureau of Business. During the 1960-65 period:
1. Total bank deposits in Little River County increased from $2,861,000 to $4,950,000—up 73 percent.
2. Average weekly earnings increased 63 percent—up from $58 to $94.
3. General business activity, growing 5.1 percent in 1961 and 9.1 percent in 1962—jumped to 33.6 percent in 1963, 35.4 percent in 1964, and 66.6 percent in 1965, twice the rise experienced by adjoining counties.
4. Total payrolls were up 273 percent and average covered employment was up 124 percent.
5. The 1960 underemployment of 31.7 percent of the male labor work force had decreased to 19.9 percent by 1964. Later figures are not yet available, but because of new and expanded industry, we are confident that the decline in underemployment has continued.
6. Little River County showed the largest increase in total income over the 5-year period of any county in the State.
7. Most of the progress has been made from 1964 on. These are dramatic measurements of progress in a rural county which saw 21 percent of its population leave during the 1950–60 period.
A population that has decreased to barely 9,000 in 1960 is now estimated by Little River County officials to number somewhere between 10,500 and 11,000 persons. And now, Mr. Chairman, for some of the slides.
Slide: 01d house.—Little River County-in the southwestern corner of Arkansas where it joins Texas and Oklahoma-was the home for 20,000 people a couple of generations ago when cotton was king. Most of the people worked the cottonfields.
Slide: Old barn and machine shed.—The 20,000 had dropped to 9,000 in the early 1960's when USDA joined in a concerted effort with other Federal, State, and county agencies and local leaders to carry out an experiment in rural revitalization.
Slide: Hand pump:-Only 10 percent of the people left in the county were farmers. It had become one of our Nation's lowest income rural counties.
Slide: Elderly Negro couple by house.—Many who stayed were elderly, retired, surviving on social security. Seven hundred families were on welfare. Only town of any size was Ashdown, the county seat, population, 2,700.
Slide: T'AP panel.- In the early 1960's we helped organize a technical action panel. And, in February 1964, I designated Little River County as a pilot rural renewal area. This designation was made at the request of that county's rural development authority formed by local leaders under State law and chaired by Marion Crank, local farmer and businessman. This action opened up additional funds for investment, but more than anything else the designation stimulated local initiative and leadership. Our technical action panel, chaired by the county supervisor of the Farmers Home Administration, started receiving widespread community support.
Slide: TAP panel, man in white shirt standing.- Technical action panels provide a one-stop service to local leaders seeking assistance in rural community development. All of the expertise that the Government possesses and all the services the Government can supply can be reached through technical panels. Here at a recent meeting of the Little River County Technical Action Panel the forestry representative tells of current progress in his field.
Slide: Gray shirt and glases.—And the county judge.
Little River County welfare office. Slide: Negro. A local leader. Slide: Blue checkered shirt.-Farmers Home Administration. Slide: Black dress and glasses.-Extension home economist.
Slide: White shirt, glasses.-Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
Slide: Blue shirt, glasses.-Soil Conservation Service.
Slide: White shirt.-Engineer for a private engineering firm who— with a grant from Farmers Home Administration, drew up a comprehensive area plan for a sewer and water system for Little River County.
Slide: Green shirt, glasses.-And, the assistant county agent in charge of new agricultural programs.
Slide: People in office.--Our USDA agencies were housed under one roof to assure full cooperation and continuity of action,
Slide: Ladies' meeting.–Adult education programs carried out by the Extension Service and vocational agricultural staffs.
Slide: Ladies' meeting.-Ralph Whitmore, rural renewal development specialist, and other USDA representatives, attend community meetings to explain services available not only through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but other Federal and State agencies as well.
Slide: Man and woman.—Little River is one-half upland and onehalf low-lying delta land, resulting in many problems in watershed protection and flood control. Here Jack Keck, the SCS work unit conservationist, checks county aerial photographs.
Slide: Trees in high water.-Farmers and rural residents living in an area southwest of Ashdown and drained by Haney Creek faced disaster after extremely heavy rains.
Slide: Two men by fence. This slide taken 2 weeks ago shows 200 acres of winter wheat ruined by overflow from Haney Creek.
Slide: Field under water, no people. And this rich farmland under water.
Slide: Road under water, buildings.-Entire farms surrounded by water.
Slide: Road under water.-Roads to market shut off.
Slide: Four men.-Farmers in the area joined forces, formed the Haney Creek Watershed Improvement District, sought FHA, SCS, and ÅSCS help plus assistance from county government officials to carry out watershed protection and flood control work.
Slide: Dragline.-The group received financial commitments from various sources totaling nearly $1 million. This slide taken 2 weeks ago, shows a dragline building a drainage ditch.
Slide: Men, trucks, dragline.--Here we see a large weir under construction. Cost-share of $530,000 from the Soil Conservation Service, a $80,000 FHA watershed loan, ASCS conservation payments to farmers, help from the Little River County government, and contributions from farmers are making possible the construction of two large dams, 18 miles of ditching plus stream channel improvements, terracing, and contouring of row crops--all those practices designed to prevent future flood disasters. Some 15,600 acres of land lies in Haney Creek watershed.
Slide: Millwood Dam sign.-In 1964, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of a large dam on the Red River, about 9 miles northeast of Ashdown.
Slide: Dam and dragline.—The $45.5 million project involves a dam 88 feet high and 314 miles long. The permanent pool formed by the dam will cover 24,500 acres. At flood stage 95,000 acres will be under water.
Slide: Dam and water. The dam was completed recently. Millions of gallons of water are now under control and available for municipal and industrial uses, recreation purposes, and farm irrigation.
Slide: Four people.--In March 1965, I went to Little River County to see firsthand the problems and the progress in finding jobs, securing good housing, and community facilities. The Governor joined me.
Slides : Negro couple in home. -Mr. and Mrs. Clovie Duckett, age 77, had been living in a shack until they received a $4,000 FHA senior citizens loan in 1964 to build this small one-bedroom home. The first time they had ever lived in a house with inside water and bath. House payments are $20 a month. Mr. Duckett also obtained a $1,000 FHA economic opportunity loan to operate his small farm.
Slide: Two men working in trench. The small town of Foreman, population 1,000, in the western part of Little River County, was installing a modern sewer system costing $267,000 during my visit. It was financed with a U.S. Department of Commerce $76,000 grant; a Health, Education, and Welfare, $41,000 grant; and a $150,000 revenue bond sold by the town of Foreman.
Slide: Pipe and truck.-Since my visit, a natural-gas pipeline and an underground telephone cable were being installed south from Ashdown to an FHA-financed homesite development and the predominantly Negro community of Ogden.
Slide: Map and three men. -A comprehensive area water and sewer plan has been drawn up for Little River County. Financed with an FHA grant, the plan is being used as a model by other communities now developing their own comprehensive plans.
Slide: Two men by trench.--Through $1,012,000 in FHA loans to the Little River County Rural Development Authority, seven pieces of land have been purchased to serve as homesites.
Slide: Men and pipe in trench.-Homes on these sites will be served through FHA water and waste disposal systems.
Slide: County equipment.-County Judge Ray Sikes, who is charged with the maintenance of 450 miles of county road, has pressed his equipment and employees into service grading roads and carrying out other improvements in the homesite areas.
Slide: Men pouring cement slab.—Ninety new homes have already been built on the seven homesites. When construction is completed the 247 acres of homesites will have 308 new homes.
Slide: Men putting up house.-House construction on all seven homesites utilizes only local carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and laborers. All homes must meet rigid Farmers Home Administration inspection.
Šlide: Two men in front of house.—An unusually good type of housing is being secured at relatively low cost because materials and supplies are being purchased on a volume basis, much of it locally produced and manufactured. Land was relatively inexpensive.
Slide: Man digging trench.-All homes are equipped with sewer and water.
Slide: Man cutting pipe.—Construction of the 308 homes and complete development of the homesites is furnishing nearly 150 manyears of direct onsite employment and creating additional employment in local industries which produce building materials.
Slide: Man and meter by pole.--A large number of homes are being provided electric lighting and heating by the rural electric co-op.
Slide: Man and house.-Houses vary in design and plans were developed by the Arkansas State Extension Service.
Slide: Distant shot of house.- Homes are nicely landscaped. Houses range in size from 900 to 1,350 square feet of floor space. Payments run from $46 to $65 a month.
Slide: Closeup of two men and flowers.-County Agent Cleo Eason worked closely with Ralph Whitmore, rural renewal program leader, in sponsoring full development of lawns and yards.