Courtesy Reuters

Which Way Will Farmers Turn?

WHETHER the United States will continue to advance along the path of international collaboration depends to no little extent upon the state of mind of the rural electorate and the farm organizations. Rural attitudes on foreign policy in the years ahead will be determined primarily by the health or weakness of domestic agriculture; and it is a mistake not to face the fact that the long-term prospects for internationalism among American farmers are not particularly bright.

Most persons concerned about foreign relations are prone to underestimate the strategic position which the American farmer holds in the formulation of our foreign policy. The political voice of rural America is peculiarly influential in Congress, for two obvious reasons. Each State has two Senators, a simple truth which describes the magnitude of the veto power of the rural, less populated sections of the country. And the Congressional districts are so drawn as to give extra weight to the rural areas. To these factors another must be added at the present time: so far as political majorities go, the anti-Administration sentiment is heavily concentrated in non-industrial districts of the Middle West and in the plains States. Herein lies the source of rural America's great power on international issues.

Currently, the hand of the American farmer is raised in approval of Dumbarton Oaks, Bretton Woods, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations formulated at the Hot Springs Conference. The extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements program, with new powers to cut tariffs, presents the farmers with a more difficult choice, however. On this issue agriculture is divided against itself, with the strong commodity lobbies -- wool, cattle, sugar and dairy -- in opposition, and two of the general farm organizations, the American Farm Bureau and the Farmers Union, in favor of the extension. At present there is strong leadership in the general farm organizations favorable to international collaboration and there is widespread farm prosperity. This conjuncture bodes well for the immediate future. The

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