Rural Life in a Peaceful World
by National Catholic Rural LIfe Conference
|Free eBook: Liturgical Year 2022-2023, Vol. 3|
Agrarianism at Civilization's Service
Civilization is reeling under the blows of a total war. The wounds inflicted are deep; but how deep no one can tell. Uncertainties are great and grave.
This much is, however, certain, civilization will not recover its strength if upon this total war there does not follow a total peace.
Total peace involves the consideration of each and every factor necessary for the establishment of right and tranquil order. It would be a serious mistake, then, if agrarian problems were not given the careful attention they deserve. Sound agrarianism is an essential element for the making of a total peace. Yet the many peace plans recently proposed have nothing, or nearly nothing, to say about postwar problems touching agriculture or rural life.
Desirous of making its contribution to postwar planning and deeply concerned about the failure of proposed plans to give consideration to the role agrarianism must play in the making of a total peace, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference deems it timely to give expression to the principles and policies underlying its postwar program for rural life.
He Breathes the Air of a Free Man
The core of sound agrarianism is the private ownership of land. This the Conference maintains as a self-evident truth.
The farmer who owns the land he cultivates will work more eagerly and willingly and thus produce a greater abundance of wealth for himself and for the nation than the farmer who has not the incentive of ownership. Property in land makes for greater social peace, because it helps to equalize the distribution of wealth in a nation; it bridges the gulf that yawns between the rich and the poor. Furthermore, ownership of land fosters a sense of stability in social life because owners of land are not the ones who wander about from place to place, ever seeking their fortunes in foreign lands.
Ownership in land not only creates in the farmer and in his children a love for the soil, but it also builds up his respect for his occupation. The farmer who owns the soil he tills will take pride in himself and in his work.
Land ownership is democracy's best defense, because it safeguards democracy's cherished heritage of freedom and security.
He who owns land breathes the air of a free man. The cornerstone of freedom is the ownership of productive property. The ownership merely of goods of consumption is not an adequate ownership upon which to build or conserve the freedom of a true democracy.
He who owns the land he tills is armored with security. In hard times he need not stand in a bread line, nor eke out an existence on the crumbs that fall from the tables of the rich nor on the doles handed out by relief workers. He has a well-stocked larder of food and a roof over himself and his family. In such times he escapes the tragic lot of the landless, propertyless, homeless, jobless proletarian of industrial cities.
Because of the great economic and social benefits that flow from private ownership in land, the Conference unequivocally condemns any plans for the nationalizing or collectivizing of land. It makes its own the thought of Pius XII: "Of all goods that can be the object of private ownership none is more conformable to nature than the land." Land ownership should, however, be principally vested in the family.
The Family Holding
The family farm is the "holding where the family lives and from which it draws all or part of its subsistence." On such holding the family becomes a vital and fecund cell of society. Facts bear this out. Farms furnish not only food but also children for the nation. The birthrate among urban people is not adequate to sustain the urban population. Urban population is a dying population. For sustaining their population, cities are dependent on immigration from the countryside.
The farm home gives security and provides the basis for wholesome family life. Religion is still held in greater honor in the farm home. Statistics prove that factors disruptive of family life namely, desertion, divorce, and crime are less prevalent on the countryside than in the city. The land is the natural habitat for the family. Family life becomes a common enterprise for husband and wife, parents and children. In the designs of Divine Providence, the gifts of nature are for the farm family apt materials not only for a naturally good life, but also for the working out of its supernatural destiny.
A great need of the times is a new generation of homemakers on the land on full-time farms and on part-time farms. With this in mind, the Conference recommends a more extensive development of home crafts and industries. Home crafts and industries would stimulate self-help and self-sufficiency, create a variety of interests in the midst of the routine of commercialized agricultural production, and foster the spirit of common family enterprise.
Mortgage and Inheritance
The Conference urges farmers to take pride in their farmsteads, to free their homes from debt at the earliest possible opportunity, and to keep them free from debt. They should stop the deadly practice of mortgaging homesteads. The son or daughter who stays on the family farm is often forced to put a mortgage on the land to pay the next of kin their portion of the father's legacy, and often the price paid for the land is entirely unwarranted by the possible income of the farm. Those who remain on the land should not be placed in the position of serfs by such a practice. Healthy agrarianism cannot be fostered by a practice which places a new burden of debt on the farm in each succeeding generation. Some other way should be found to provide for the other members of the family. Those who have received a higher education and are established in some remunerative business or profession have already obtained from the farm what is due to them. Let it, however, be remembered that no inheritance customs or laws can ever replace the necessity of exercising the natural virtues of love of work, honesty, and the saving spirit in order that ownership of land be acquired and maintained.
Beauty and Convenience
The Conference also urges farmers to provide good homes for their wives and children as well as other farm buildings and equipment. Discontent is created by depriving the family of conveniences and comforts that the farmer could easily install in the farm home. Home surroundings should be made as pleasant as possible. The farm home should become a center not only of economic activity but also of religious, educational, and cultural life. The farmer can solve many of his own problems if he has the will to do so. To a good farmer land is a sacred thing. He knows that it is God's chief means for continuing the work of creation upon earth. He should strive to implant in his children a real love for the land.
Foot in Industry and Foot on Soil
The Conference recommends rural homesteads, wherever feasible, on small acreages for industrial workers. Ownership of a home with a small productive acreage would give more independence to the worker, provide him with a source of wholesome food for his family, and a wholesome rural atmosphere for his children. While this desirable economy is not possible where industries are concentrated in great cities, it is however possible in many places. The benefits to be derived from it are reasons for the decentralization of industry. The Conference admits the advantages and sees the possibilities of cooperative farming in certain localities and for specific purposes, when the cooperators are the real owners and managers of their agricultural enterprise.
The Government at Work for the People
Because of the great benefits accruing to a nation from wide-spread ownership of land, the government, as custodian and promoter of the common good, has the grave duty to promote the widest possible distribution of land ownership.
The Conference favors wise measures of legislation for the encouragement of ownership especially of family-type farms. The size of such farms will vary under different conditions of soil and climate, and under different methods of farming; but, no matter what the variations, the ideal in a healthy agrarian economy is the family-type farm.
The government must not make taxation on the land burdensome; on the contrary, it should favor in every way possible, even through suitable tax measures, the establishment and permanence of family-type farms.
Soldiers to the Land
When the war is over, one of the chief tasks of the government will be to provide released service men and released defense workers with an opportunity to settle on the land. Plans for this, the Conference insists with all the emphasis at its command, must be made now. Preference should be given to men with farm experience; they should be required to have a personal financial interest in the land on which they settle; they should receive such assistance by way of grants and loans as may be necessary, but always with a view to building up a spirit of self-help and love for the soil. Loans to farmers can be put on a self-liquidating basis, as the experience of recent years has proven.
Homes for the Homeless
Neither industry nor agriculture has reached the saturation point or even a satisfactory point of development in the United States. In normal times we are plagued with surpluses of agricultural products. Under proper cultivation, the agricultural lands of the nation will support a much greater population. Immigrant settlers of high moral character would contribute to the wealth of the nation. The Conference believes that the possession of such a superabundance of land places on the people of the United States a moral obligation to provide homes for homeless victims of war. It urges the study of the question and the preparation of plans for financing, for the selection of immigrants, and for the development of settlements. Money spent for peace is wise economy. For the final success of such settlement projects, due consideration should be given to national and religious loyalties.
Catholic Land Associations
In the United States we have had some very successful Catholic Land Associations. They succeeded in establishing and in developing many flourishing Catholic communities. If we are to have Catholic land settlements, and if we wish to forestall government ownership and management of the land, it may be advisable to promote the investment of Catholic money in Catholic land projects.
Prompt action must be taken with respect to a reform of tenancy laws. The present laws on land tenure and land use discourage farm ownership. The tenant has little freedom and less security. So long as the present tenancy system endures it is vain to speak of democracy. The experience of other countries proves that tenancy laws can be devised to give the tenant greater security in the tenure of the land he operates and compensation for any equities he creates by improving the soil, buildings, fences, and other farm installations. Furthermore, experience demonstrates that tenancy laws can be framed to enable the tenant to become an owner. To promote ownership by tenants, the government should make more adequate funds available.
The Conference recognizes that in certain localities and under certain circumstances, large-scale farming is justified; nevertheless, as a trend this development in our agrarian life forebodes menacing evils. In some places the urban factory system, with its corps of managers, foremen, and laborers, has been introduced to the countryside. This type of farming results in the exploitation of both land and workers. It brings to the countryside commercialism and greed. Agriculture must first be a way of life and then an industry for producing agricultural commodities for domestic and for foreign markets.
In the face of such evils, the Conference issues the warning, based on lessons of history, that agrarian discontent, radicalism, and revolt are usually the consequence of concentrated landholdings. In the past, concentrated landholdings have been the ruin of nations. The Conference reaffirms the Catholic social teaching that the Creator made the earth for all men and not for a chosen few, and therefore, access to its natural resources must be denied to no one. This teaching is in full harmony, as Leo XIII rightly emphasized, with private property in land. It is a basic principle of the social encyclicals "that the goods created by God for all men should in equity reach all under the guidance of justice and the assistance of charity."
Duties of Private Property
Inspired by such principles, derived both from the dictates of reason and the precepts of the Gospel, the government, with due regard for the rights of private property, should take appropriate steps to enforce the social obligations with which private property is encumbered. Private property enjoys sacred rights, but it also has solemn duties toward the common good. When it does not voluntarily discharge these duties, it must not complain if the government, as guardian of the common good, intervenes to compel the fulfillment of property's obligation. The Conference would rather not see such governmental action; but those who shirk their responsibility to rule themselves by voluntary organization and voluntary action, compel the state to become a tyrant. Therefore, it expresses the earnest hope that large landholders will of their own accord inaugurate measures of land reform which will be equitable and just toward all.
If farm operators were compelled to pay a decent family wage to their employees, the large-scale corporation farm would cease to be a menace to the family-type farm. The Conference recommends that agricultural laborers be paid a living family wage, and that they, like other types of workers, be protected by society through proper and direct legislation. The agricultural worker, resident or migrant, has equal rights before God and man with other people. "The immense army of hired rural laborers, whose condition is depressed in the extreme and who have no hope of ever obtaining a share in the land," have a right to look forward to land ownership. The Conference further recommends that social security benefits be extended to farm laborers.
Self-Government for Farmers
In order to safeguard the interests of the farming group, the Conference recommends that, wherever governmental action is necessary for agricultural economy, farmers be represented through their farm organizations in all governmental agencies set up for the proper execution of agrarian laws. Democracy, as a system of government for, by, and through the people, demands such a course of procedure.
The Problem of a Just Price
The economy of a nation cannot be maintained in a healthy condition if the right balance is not maintained "in the prices at which goods are sold that are produced by the various occupations such as agriculture, manufacturing, and other."
The question of a fair price for agricultural products is of concern not only to the farmer but to the whole nation. If the farmer does not get a just price for the commodities he produces, his purchasing power is decreased. In consequence he cannot buy on the industrial market the things he needs for farm and home. Unemployment in the cities will increase because of a decrease in the demands for products of the factory. The farm family itself is seriously affected by low farm prices. The home will lack the comforts and conveniences for decent human living; drudgery will fall heavily on every member of the family; hours of work will be long; educational, recreational, and health facilities will be curtailed. The result will be desertion of the countryside. Able-bodied young farm people will leave their farm for employment in the city where they hope to better their lot, and where their presence will further aggravate the problem of unemployment. If the farmer is adequately compensated for the investment of his capital and his labor, he will be less eager "to exchange the life of the rural districts for the excitements and pleasures of the town."1
Aware of the importance of a just price for the farmer, earnest minds have addressed themselves to the solution of this difficult problem. All too frequently the farmer has been made the victim of competitive forces in the market with the consequence that he has been forced to take whatever was offered him for his commodities, regardless of the costs of production. The Conference protests vigorously against a system of selling and buying that offers bargain prices to the consumer at the expense of decent living conditions for the farmer. The consumer, too, the Conference insists, is subject to the moral law which requires the payment of a just price to the farmer.
The Parity Principle
The Conference reaffirms its support of the parity principle whereby a balance is maintained between the various groups in the nation. It recognizes, however, that the present method of achieving this balance by means of parity prices is extremely inflexible and does not make sufficient allowance for changes in technology and changing tastes and nutritional needs. Greater flexibility and a more efficient use of our resources can be attained by setting parity income for farmers as a goal; and while insuring parity income to agriculture in general, the diversion of resources to the production of most needed products should be achieved by intelligent cooperative methods.
At the same time disastrous declines in farm prices, such as have occurred within the last decade, should be prevented by the establishment of price floors under farm commodities at levels which will prevent the amassing of surpluses and which will not impede the transfer of resources to the production of the commodities most in demand.
Full Industrial Employment
Since parity income is a resultant of price and volume of production, and since farm income invariably moves in accord with industrial payrolls, the Conference strongly recommends that the government use every means at its disposal to maintain full employment in industry, by means of a public works program if necessary, thereby insuring a strong demand for farm products.
Since many of the problems of the farmer can be traced to the flexibility of prices in agriculture as compared with the rigid prices of industrial commodities, the Conference further recommends that efforts to control and break up monopolies be continued and extended, with a view to introducing greater price flexibility in and more sustained production of industrial commodities.
Subsidies Only Temporary
The Conference is convinced that the agricultural economy can be so regulated that subsidies to the farmer will be necessary only as temporary measures. It is possible that subsidies and incentive payments are at the present time the most efficient means of insuring to producers a price which will call forth the greatest volume of production without at the same time giving rise to a round of demands for higher wages by industrial workers. But subsidies should not be envisioned as a permanent policy. The farmer wants to stand on his own feet. He does not want to be either a slave of a competitive price system or a client of a dole-dispensing government. He asks only a just price for the things which he has to sell.
The Conference strongly condemns the existing system of discriminatory freight rates and recommends a revision of rates so as to permit all sections of the country to compete in the national markets on a fair basis.
The growth of the cooperative movement in the agricultural industry has been exceptionally strong. This is a heartening sign in view of the general breakdown of the social organism. Cooperatives take the middle road between excessive individualism on the one hand and collective stateism on the other. Organized on a democratic basis and controlled by democratic methods they are among democracy's best defenses.
The Benefits of Cooperatives
The Conference recognizes that cooperatives are organized primarily to achieve economic purposes. Through them the farmer hopes to find better markets for his products, obtain fairer prices, make loans on more reasonable terms, buy to better advantage for farm and home, produce better quality commodities, and in general achieve the benefits of collective action. By forming buying, selling, and credit cooperatives, the farmer puts himself into the position where he can exercise powerful economic leverage in an organized market. Through them he aims to obtain a more adequate return for his labor and his investment.
But, in addition to such economic benefits, the Conference sees in well-formed and well-operated cooperatives great social, educational, and moral advantages. Cooperatives furnish a wholesome outlet for man's social nature which craves the society of others; they check unwholesome and selfish individualism, in the clutches of which farmers were caught all too often in the past. Furthermore, cooperatives have done much for adult education through folk schools, discussion clubs, reading circles, extension courses, and the distribution of good literature. Cooperatives, rightly conducted, become valuable agencies for inculcating important social virtues, such as fairness, honesty, helpfulness, and benevolence. Cooperatives will not be successful unless the members are imbued with the spirit of cooperation. Cooperatives will not be successful without a sustained understanding interest of the members. Local control is essential for the success of cooperatives.
Because of the many benefits that grow out of good cooperatives, the Conference reaffirms its conviction stated in its Manifesto on Rural Life:
"Farm cooperatives are necessary. Were it not for cooperative enterprise, the family-type farmer would be at the mercy of the economically powerful in society. Unorganized he would find himself pitted as an individual against the organized forces of concentrated wealth. The farmer cannot allow himself to become a slave either of a domineering state or of the economic dictatorship of the mighty of this earth. The farmer will be free only insofar as he is organized."
Dangers for Cooperatives
The Conference finds it necessary to warn the farmer against those who would introduce the spirit of sordid gain into the cooperative movement. Once the spirit of materialism brings its evil cohorts of selfishness, avarice, and greed into the cooperative movement, it will be rushed on by them to certain ruin. Nor must cooperatives allow their organization to be used to play power politics to the harm of other cooperatives, the consuming public, or the common good.
With experienced cooperators, the Conference is unalterably opposed to the placing of well-established cooperatives under the administration of agencies of the government. Cooperatives cannot thrive in an atmosphere of bureaucracy. Collective stateism, in its purposes and its functions, is foreign to the collective action of voluntary and independent cooperators.
The Conference emphasizes again in strongest terms that the cooperative movement must preserve its independence in the face of a growing all-powerful state. The cooperative movement may legitimately demand of the government protection of its rights as well as aid for the furtherance of its well-being, but any governmental measures beyond that function interfere with the freedom of enterprise to which cooperatives may rightly make claim.
While asserting their rights, cooperators must not neglect to discharge their duties toward the common good. They must be guided by the dictates of social justice, which demand that all contribute their proportionate share to the common good. They must be guided by the spirit of social charity which, being the soul of the social order, is also the soul of the cooperative movement. Without social charity, ideals of mutual helpfulness, trust, and benevolence cannot prosper. Both social justice and social charity in the cooperative movement must keep themselves vigorous by heeding the scriptural injunction: "Bear ye one another's burdens."
New Fields of Cooperative Action
The Conference is not unmindful of undeveloped areas in the cooperative field. Cooperative rural credit is still weak. Until this is made stronger the cooperative movement will be retarded in its progress. The Conference recommends earnest study of this difficult subject as well as proper governmental action to secure measures of credit specially designed to meet the cooperative needs of farming groups. It is noteworthy that on several occasions the Sovereign Pontiffs have recommended the establishment of land banks with a view to providing means for mutual help.
The cooperative spirit should be implanted in rural youth. Four-H clubs are well adapted to teach cooperation. By purpose and method they attempt to inculcate ideals of associated activity, foster community spirit, train for collective enterprise, and promote social solidarity. Cooperators will gain much by giving the fullest support to 4-H clubs and also to such groups as the Homemakers and the Future Farmers of America.
Cooperatives are true brotherhood in action. But brotherhood becomes an empty word if it is not given content by religion. From religion, the Conference is convinced, the cooperative movement must derive warm and prolific vitality for doing the great things it seeks to accomplish. If cooperation is a Christian way of living, as some maintain, it can only be that if it is supported by Christian principles and ideals.
Life on the Countryside
The welfare of the nation as well as the welfare of the family makes it desirable that the maximum population live on the land. Our immediate objective should be to keep people on the land rather than bring people back to the land. To keep people on the land we must have on the countryside decent living conditions, security, reasonable prosperity, and opportunities for cultural development. The Conference has the firm conviction that this can be achieved by a sound agrarian policy. The farmer himself can do more than anyone else to bring about this happy condition. He must first build up within himself an appreciation of his high calling. It is a sacred calling. In his work he is a partner of God. The land which he tills is a "holy land." The soil has been committed to him as a sacred heritage. No one in all the world breathes so securely the air of a freeman as a farmer who, through industry and thrift, has won a landholding as a living space for himself and his family.
The Church and the Farmer
The Conference assures the farmer that the Church has his interest at heart. With him the Church desires to build a better rural life. The Church has always been the farmer's friend. This is attested to by the fatherly interest of the Sovereign Pontiffs in the well-being of the farmer. In words of high praise Pius VII extolled agriculture as "the first most important art."2
Both in their agrarian legislation for the Agro Romano as well as in their social encyclicals, the Popes have espoused the cause of the farmer. They condemned conditions of landholding prejudicial to the best interests of agriculture and onerous to the tiller of the soil. They issued edicts against excessive landholdings detrimental to the well-being of the poor. In their temporal domain they made laws against usurious loans, that lay as a heavy burden on the farmer, and against speculators who hoarded grain and other agricultural products. On the other hand, they promoted farm welfare legislation in the form of sick benefits for farm laborers, better housing for farm families, rural banks, and other similar measures of self-help. In very recent times Pius XII proclaimed the native right to the use of material goods, intimately linked as it is with man's dignity and other rights of the human person; warned against the growing power of public authority with its dangers for personal development and healthy family life; demanded living space for the family, access to the natural resources of the earth, and a just distribution of its goods.
The Conference recommends to the farmers of our land a study of papal documents with a view to learning for themselves in what high regard the Church holds the calling of the farmer.
Religion in the Farm Home
Living close to the soil, the farmer will not find it difficult to live close to God, its Maker. Better than urban dwellers he will realize that his way of living is the Christian way. He will not forget his responsibility to Divine Providence for the sacred treasures of nature that have been committed to his care, and consequently he will not plunder and ruin the soil by careless and improvident methods of farming. In the Christian conception of land, man is God's steward. As a good steward, self-sufficiency for his family should be among his first aims.
The Conference urges the farmer to give religion the first place in his home. Family prayers and home devotions will do much to create a religious atmosphere.
The Conference exhorts rural parents to use every opportunity available for religious instruction of their children, including the vacation school, the year-round instruction course, and Catholic literature. It is well to bear in mind that the first seeds of religion should be sown and nurtured by the parents.
A rural population well-informed in matters of Christian doctrine is one of the greatest needs of our times. The Conference favors a further extension of rural Catholic schools, catechetical centers, religious correspondence courses, and free religious library service.
The Conference solicits the earnest and active assistance of all Catholics in support of its missionary activities in those rural areas of our land where religion has had little chance for growth and development.
The Rural Parish
The Conference, furthermore, pleads for support in its efforts to strengthen the rural parish. The rural parish is God's agency for communicating the spiritual vitality needed for good rural living; it is the anchor for a healthy rural population; it is the fountain head of wholesome rural culture; it is the natural center for the settlement of new families on the land.
The Conference pledges its full support to rural pastors, whose daily work is dedicated to "the conservation of the golden mass the rural population of the land," and whose divine service it is "to spend themselves for those who are the backbone of the nation."3 The rural pastor's work is modest and unheralded, but it is work in the interest of "the poor of the Lord, the friends of Jesus Christ."
Education for the Countryside
Closely allied to the work of religion is the work of education. Better rural schools and better trained rural teachers are very much needed. The Conference deplores the fact that parents have allowed their rural homes and schools to become the recruiting stations for cities and city jobs. Too many textbooks used in rural schools are written from the urban point of view. There are too many urban-minded teachers in rural schools, who lack the understanding and appreciation of rural living which is necessary to render a proper service to the rural home and the rural community. No teacher should attempt to teach rural children unless that teacher has a social point of view and a social philosophy that includes a sympathetic understanding of rural living.
The rural schools should, by proper choice of subjects and methods, develop, enlarge, and perfect those creative abilities of boys and girls which come to fruition in the making of good rural homes and in the building of a better rural community. In life, and therefore, in education, homes and communities are primary things. Homes and communities are built with hands as well as with heads. In rural schools there must be courses which train the hands as well as the intellect for the building of better homes and better communities.
Our democratic institutions are rooted primarily in local ground. This is especially true of our schools. Local control of the school always has been regarded in our American tradition as a safeguard of freedom. Our freedom would be endangered if this control were ever to pass to the federal government. The Conference advises farmers to be vigilant, lest through federal subsidies they lose control of their schools. The danger of governmental encroachment on their rights and freedoms will grow in proportion as rural groups neglect to give support to rural schools. They should leave nothing undone to provide the best possible facilities for a good education for their children.
The Conference furthermore advocates the establishment of diocesan or regional farm schools for boys and practical schools for girls, in which the rural boys and girls will receive the education and practical training necessary for success in farming. Such schools are a pressing need. An agricultural school to train men and women for both home and foreign missionary districts is also something to be desired.
Education, however, does not cease with school days. Through folk-schools, study circles, and discussion clubs, farmers should strive to round out their education, not only with regard to agricultural matters but also with regard to things religious and cultural. The Conference favors the further development of adult education which happily has taken a firm root in rural soil.
The Program of Health
The countryside offers many advantages for healthful living. Despite these advantages, rural people not infrequently suffer from a lack of sanitation, food inspection, control of communicable diseases, and adequate medical and hospital service.
The Conference favors the further development of a program of health education through schools, farm organizations, extension services. It recommends the building of small rural hospitals in well-located rural centers. Such hospitals could be made centers of health education, home nursing, and motor health clinics. Motor health clinics would be of great value in a program for bringing better health service to certain disadvantaged rural groups. The Conference pledges its support to cooperative health insurance and hospital service program; it earnestly urges the early establishment of maternity guilds in rural parishes.
The Conference recommends the support and aid of government in the promotion of the health service of rural hospitals, rural clinics, and other agencies established for the sick, especially the sick poor. National and state health service should not, however, be extended to the point where it destroys, through the use of public funds, private and charitable enterprises devoted to the care of the sick. Government monopoly would not provide efficient health service. It would destroy the spirit of charity, create unnecessarily a large number of public servants with vested interests in their jobs, and widen the breach already made in the outer defenses of democracy. In the praiseworthy attempts of government to secure greater coverage of disadvantaged groups who lack proper health service, care should be taken to promote, rather than to destroy, private health services. Both private and public agencies have a large field for their respective competent activities; they should supplement and complement each other in the task that falls within their competence.
Town and Country Cooperation
The function of the rural town is to serve the whole rural community. The interests of town and country are mutual. Town and country should work together for the good of the entire community.
For the most part rural towns are drab and dreary places in which to live; they are a disgrace to rural America. A program of education which would include the stimulation of civic pride would be effective in improving the conditions in many rural towns. Should public works projects again become necessary to provide employment, money might well be spent on projects for making rural communities, including rural towns, attractive and suitable living places.
The interests of even the large city and rural communities are also mutual. In the long run neither can prosper without the other. When both prosper, the national economy is in a healthy condition. There is need for a better understanding between rural and urban groups. Unfortunately, much harm has resulted from misunderstandings between the city and the country. With this in mind, the Conference urges that special efforts be put forth to promote unity and sympathetic understanding by each of the problems of the other.
The Farmer in the World Economy
The winning of the war is the farmer's first objective. To attain it, he is straining every effort from dawn to sunset. Production has never been higher. The nation is asking him to increase his production. The American farmer will respond to this call as he always has responded in other crises of the nation.
He must not, however, be impeded in his efforts, and therefore he must be given the necessary manpower, farm implements, and other materials necessary for agricultural production.
Feeding the Hungry
The demand for a maximum production of food will not cease when war ends. Following the war, hunger and famine will stalk through many nations. Sickness and death will continue to take a heavy toll. Undernourishment of mothers and children will have created a special and a pressing problem. War-torn and enslaved nations will be suffering from a critical shortage of primary foodstuffs because of the devastation of agricultural lands, the slaughter of herds, and the complete upset of their agricultural economy.
The first task will be to rush food to the starving people of war-stricken areas. For this, increased production will be required wherever possible. Much is expected from the United States because of its great agricultural resources. Transportation and shipping facilities will be needed to discharge the formidable task. It is a task that will challenge our Christian charity.
The Conference hopes that jealous international competition will not cause a repetition of the tragic experiences that followed the last world war. The free flow of trade must not be hindered; by concerted international collaboration, the necessary shipping must be made available for the transportation and distribution of the needed food; monopolistic practice, either by government or by private interests, must be prevented, and, if necessary, even by means of drastic measures.
Unless swift and adequate measures of international relief are taken, there will be no peace. Hunger is a most prolific breeder of ill-will, hatred, and revolt. The Conference is persuaded that in the interest of peace, no task will be so urgent as the task of providing proper international relief as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
The Rehabilitation of International Agriculture Relief, however, cannot be carried on indefinitely. Our nation, as generous and charitable as its people are, cannot be expected to be the free bread basket of the world indefinitely; nor can this be expected of other rich and resourceful nations. Relief should be emergency relief.
The second urgent task will be the rehabilitation of the stricken agricultural economy of nations that have suffered directly from the devastating impact of the war. To achieve this task, it will be necessary to help these nations to obtain seed, livestock, implements, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, veterinary drugs, and whatever other materials are necessary for efficient agricultural production. The interests of these nations will be best served if they are put on a self-help basis as quickly as possible. It is the primary responsibility of each nation to look after the welfare of its people.
The Conference is in complete agreement with plans to bring to starving people not only much needed foodstuffs, but also the means necessary to restore their agricultural economy to a healthful condition. Help for war-stricken peoples will do more to insure a good and lasting peace than all other international devices that may be planned, for then the peace will be a peace rooted in good will. "Peace on earth to men of good will" is Heaven's message to mankind.
The Good Neighbors
Even though Latin America has not suffered from the ravages of war, its agriculture and its people have suffered for many years because of large landholdings, religious, political, social and economic insecurity. To them as brothers in Christ, and as good neighbors, we pledge not only sympathy but positive assistance.
When peace has come, war and relief undertakings will merge into broader peace undertakings. The American farmer will not be disinterested in foreign affairs.
By tradition and nature, the American farmer is a peaceful man. He is not an interventionist in the loose and political sense in which the term is now used. With the first president of our nation, an agricultural statesman, the American farmer looks skeptically at military alliances and political maneuverings to effect balance of power. On the other hand, he is not an isolationist in the sense in which the term is now used. He knows the products of his labor flow into the channels of international trade. He takes a live interest in what is going on in the world.
Fully cognizant of the fact that there never has been an adequate food supply for the nations of the world, the American farmer is interested in opening, on as wide a scale as possible, the markets of the world. He would want trade barriers leveled and international engagements entered into for the marketing of his commodities.
In drafting trade and lend-lease agreements the farmer's interests must be protected. These must not be made with an eye fixed chiefly on industry. These agreements must seek to strike an equitable balance between exports and imports of both industry and agriculture. Cheap-food policies as envisioned by the government must not be effected at the expense of either the farmer's standard of living or the farmer's agricultural enterprise. In order to safeguard his interests adequately, he must, through his representatives, be given a voice in plans to bring agriculture into proper balance with world economy. In all international arrangements, the rightful claims of agriculture must be recognized.
Agriculture is the most important part of a nation's economy. Most people of the earth live on the land. An adequate food supply is essential for the health, efficiency, productiveness, and, ultimately, the civilization and culture of a people; for what is best in civilization and culture depends to a large extent on a vigorous, happy, and peaceful nation.
The Conference condemns, therefore, without reservation, an economy of scarcity. It favors an economy of abundance, and believes that such an economy can be pursued without restriction if measures for an equitable distribution of the goods of the earth are devised and made effective. Heretofore, an oversupply has meant underconsumption. The fact is that multitudes have never had enough to eat, even in countries rich in the resources of nature. Adequate purchasing power in both industry and in agriculture is the surest way of obtaining a better distribution of the things both produce.
The Conference, therefore, urges that plans for a good peace include adequate measures for bringing about a better distribution of the world's agricultural products. This will create a healthy agrarianism, and by means of it, the peace for which mankind now toils and bleeds.
The National Catholic Rural Life Conference dedicates itself with renewed devotion to the great tasks that lie ahead and solicits the support of city and country people for the doing of the things that need to be done to make our nation, with God's blessing, peaceful and prosperous in a world that will be peaceful and prosperous.
- Will "total peace" flow from an agreement between nations not to fight? Or must it flow from the ability of each nation to establish satisfactory economic, social, political, and religious life within its own borders?
- Can you think of any reasons why peace plans often pay so little attention to agricultural problems?
- What part of the nation is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture? How many people? How much of the nation's wealth? How much of the nation's income?
- Do your findings show that national and international harmony are impossible without a solution of basic agricultural problems?
- Who will consider these problems if you don't?
- Why is the core of sound rural life the private ownership of land?
- Does a comparison of owners with tenants in your community show that owners are better farmers than tenants? What is your personal attitude towards the relationship of ownership to conscientious farming?
- Why do some owners take less care of their farms than do tenants?
- Is it true that where there is widespread ownership of land, "isms" make little headway? Why? Do you know of any examples where the opposite is true?
- Why won't democracy work among a propertyless class?
- Is it possible that an owner, through a false notion of his independence, might hinder the working of democracy? Can you recall instances in which owners used the influence of their ownership to prevent true democratic action?
- Why do we speak of "security on the land"? Recall the insecurity of city people during the years of depression. Was the farmer really as bad off as this? Compare the position of the family farmer with that of the commercial farmer during this period. Is there any connection between diversified use of the land and security on the farm?
- What is collectivized farming? Have any nations tried it?
- Are there any trends in that direction in this country?
- What is a family holding? Can a definite acreage be set as a family holding and applied to every section of the country?
- Will a family holding permit limited specialization in some cash product? Is this necessary?
- What is there about a diversified family farm that makes it suitable for raising a good family?
- Do figures show that the city birth rate is falling off at a dangerous rate? How do you account for the present city birth rate? What happened to the birth rate during the depression? Has the war caused any change? Permanent or temporary? Why? Has the city birth rate always tended to drop off? How does this threaten our national life: social, economic, religious? Is anything being done about it?
- Contrast the city with the rural birth rate?
- What is the birth rate in your group? In your neighborhood? Compare (in your locality) Catholic with non-Catholic; your generation with earlier generation; your district with other districts; with the national rate. How do you explain your findings?
- Compare divorce and crime rates in rural and urban America. How does your neighborhood compare with average? What factors seen to influence crime rate and divorce rate?
- Where do you want your children to establish their families?
- Can a farm carry as heavy a debt as another business of the same capital investment? Why?
- What are some of the causes of farm debts? How many of these can be avoided? Is a mortgage the best means of raising needed honey?
- Discuss the matter of farm inheritance thoroughly. It seems that in some cases the division of the inheritance is the only just solution. Is it possible that a shift to a more intensified farming of smaller acreages is a normal rural development that we have avoided? Are there some farms in your neighborhood that could easily be broken down into family holdings for several children?
- Is it a good thing for a young man to have a fully equipped debt-free farm handed over to him? What does experience show in your community?
- What is the condition of the farm homes in your district? Have they been kept modern? or are they still as they were a generation ago? Many farmers have a selfish tendency towards investing all the farm earnings in labor saving machinery for themselves, never giving a thought to improving conditions for the women in the farm home.
- How much would it be worth to a farm family to have a simple shower just off the kitchen where the men could bathe after work, and then spend a few cheerful hours with the family before retiring? Do you feel that some good farm girls never return to the farm from college precisely because they don't care for the prospects of spending their evenings with a husband who doesn't bother to wash and change his work clothes?
- List some of the home improvements that a farmer should strive to make for the happiness of his family?
- What are some things a wise father can do to instill in his sons a real love of the land? Would it help if a boy owned one of the gilts or ewes or a steer?
- List some of the things that could be done to beautify the house and the grounds. Are they worth the effort?
- What is a part-time farming community?
- How effective are they as a partial remedy of unemployment?
- Do you know of any? How does it work out in practice?
- What effect would a movement towards these have on farm markets? If they would reduce the farm market, is the good they would effect worth the price?
- The time has come when we must decide whether America is to be predominantly industrial, rural, or mixed. What type of economy do you judge would be the best for the people?
- Should the problem of land settlement be thrown entirely on the national government? Would it seem wiser for local communities and parishes to go as far as they can with a solution of their own problem?
- Would it be worth the effort to have a parish committee of prudent farmers and business men to study the problem of land tenure and to organize the forces of the community to keep the proper number of families in the neighborhood?
- What help should be sought from the state and federal governments? How can you go about getting this assistance without surrendering your independence to politicians?
- Would it be advisable to encourage indiscriminate resettlement of soldiers and industrial workers on the land?
- What are some of the difficulties to be faced?
- Would an effective educational program be imperative?
- What should be the basis of selection?
- Has your community done anything about making provisions for this problem? Remember your community has its own peculiar problems and possibilities. The problems won't be solved effectively nor will the possibilities be properly exploited unless you do what you can yourselves.
- Which seems better: free land grants, or long-term low interest loans for the purchase of land and equipment?
- Is it possible to prevent overproduction under our present system of industry and agriculture?
- Do we suffer from overproduction of goods or from underconsumption? What causes this? How can we remedy it?
- How many more families will the land in your parish support, provided it is broken up into family sized units?
- Would you be willing to admit some immigrant families into your community and help them get started? How would you go about selecting and helping them?
- Look up the history of some Catholic land associations.
- What was good about them? What could be improved?
- Do you consider it advisable to organize a Catholic land association? Who should take the lead in this work? Should city people be included in it? Why?
- What are the present laws governing tenancy?
- What are the principle difficulties of tenants?
- To what extent can these be remedied by legislation?
- Should the legislation be state or federal or both?
- What specific laws do we need? How can we get them?
- What is corporation farming? What is wrong with it?
- Who are the owners? Are they interested in the soil? Do they tend to exploit farm labor? What has their stand been on Social Security? Farm credit? Why?
- Is there anything peculiar to agriculture that places on the present generation of farmers the obligation of preserving the fertility of the soil for the nest generation?
- Why should agriculture first be a way of life?
- Why are owners better operators of farms?
- What obligations go with the ownership of property?
- Why do owners have social obligations in the use of their property?
- Why does the government have an obligation to see to it that these obligations are fulfilled?
- What reforms are needed in your locality? Can they be effected without government interference? How?
- How does the condition of farm labor compare with that of city labor?
- Why is the lot of farm labor such an unhappy one? What could be done to improve it? Is there any organization for them? Would it be better for them to be represented in some good farm organization than to be incorporated in city labor unions? Is your farm organization doing anything about this?
- Why do large land operators oppose farm labor reform?
- How are farmers represented in drawing up governmental farm policies? What steps could be taken to improve this representation? Is this possible without local organization?
- How many of you belong to farm organizations? Do they represent the interests of family farmers? Not all farm organizations do.
- Is it possible for farmers to receive a fair price without intelligent cooperation with city labor organizations? Is your farm organization doing anything to bring about an understanding with city labor unions?
- Who fixes farm prices? The farmer? The processor and middleman? Does the farmer control machinery prices?
- Can the individual farmer do much about this?
- Would processing and marketing co-ops help?
- How does the average farmer determine what to raise for the market? Does this enable him to take advantage of good market prices, or does it rather leave him one year behind the good prices?
- The farmer can never expect a just price until he joins other farmers in planning production. The A.A.A., whether you like it or not, was only an effort on the part of the government to do this planning for the farmers. The best way to prevent governmental interference is to make it unnecessary by doing your own planning. Have you done any practical thinking along these lines? Why not start now?
- The Parity Principle and Floor Prices Be sure you understand these. Selfish interests are fighting a death struggle for free enterprise. They are spending millions of dollars to convince people that the American way of life demands free-for-all cut-throat economics. They brand price control and all forms of government regulation as dictatorial and un-American. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Be sure you know where your interests and American interests lie.
- What effect did the depression have on farm prices?
- Is full industrial employment possible without radical changes in our industrial system?
- What effect do monopolies have on farm prices? Why?
- Are subsidies necessary at the present time?
- What will happen if the price stabilization agreement is broken? Do you want this to happen? Would a parity-at-market price be apt to do it?
- Are subsidies immediately in the interest of the farmer, or are they rather in the interest of the city worker?
- How do present freight rates affect your locality?
- How can the railroads use freight rates to favor their investments in other enterprises?
- Do you know about the recent injustice done the co-op elevators of the northwest by the method of distributing grain cars? Should you take an interest in such things?
- What are the Rochdale principles? Do you understand the organization of co-operatives?
- Why are cooperatives an important defense of democracy?
- How can the farmer benefit through the cooperative marketing of his products? Could he have this same benefit without cooperatives?
- Does marketing cooperatively sometimes mean selling at a price below that offered by private concerns? Why? If there were no cooperatives would the private concerns continue to offer these prices? In the long run can you lose by sticking to the cooperative? What happens to any earnings?
- What advantages are there in buying cooperatively?
- What are the social, educational, and moral advantages?
- Should there be a link between farmers' producers co-ops and the city Consumer Co-ops? Is it to the farmer's advantage to wait for the consumer groups to organize producers' and marketing co-ops?
- What is apt to happen to a cooperative whose chief aim is to pile up earnings? Why do some co-ops show such large earnings? Is this their fault or is it the result of market prices that are higher than would be necessary under a cooperative economy? What should co-ops do with their earnings?
- Have you known some cooperatives that tended to become corporations? Is this apt to happen if cooperatives become too big? How can this be avoided? Should farmers' co-ops grow by expanding their territory or by establishing new self-governed local units? What is the effect of each of these methods on local communities? On the government of the cooperatives? Which method has been followed in the past?
- Can cooperatives long survive without a strong educational program? Should the youth be educated too? Why?
- Why is too much government aid dangerous to cooperatives? Does the government often give aid without demanding control?
- Why is the present Credit Union System inadequate for farm needs? Does the farmer need a different type of credit from the city worker? Why?
- Could your community set up a cooperative land bank that would make adequate loans on a favorable basis to farmers and to young men trying to establish themselves on the land?
- Would the gain to the community be worth more than the loss of interest? Why not look into this matter?
- What further fields of cooperation must the farmer develop in order to operate at full efficiency and get a fair return on his effort? What about co-op machinery service, service stations, processing plants, transportation units, etc.?
- What social services could well be provided cooperatively? How many families would it require to finance a small co-op hospital for limited medical service? Do you know anything about cooperative hospitalization insurance? Could something of the same type be worked out for dental service? Legal service?
- Do you know anything about the Farmers' Union educational program for young people? The educational program of the Grange? Of the Farm Bureau?
- Is there a co-op in your neighborhood? Do you belong?
- How could you answer the argument that this country should be industrialized like England; hence, we don't want so many people on the land?
- Can you prove from statistics that if the people who are now on farms will remain there, it will not long be true that too many people are in the cities?
- Does this mean that we should have no plans for helping those in the city who wish to return to the land? Why?
- Do the people leave the land because of: lack of decent living conditions? Lack of security? Lack of reasonable prosperity? Lack of opportunities for cultural development? Are these things to be found in your own community? What can you do to help supply then? As a member of the community, have you any obligation to do this?
- Who must be the basic agent in rural organization? Why can't the government do it alone?
- Since a true appreciation of his calling is necessary to stimulate a farmer in his vocation, what is the duty of parents to instill this in their children? How can it be done?
- How has the Church expressed its high regard for the vocation of the farmer?
- What has the Church ever done to defend the farmers' rights?
- Just what did Pius XII say in this regard?
- How can you find out more about what the Church teaches on the rural question? Are there any pamphlets, etc.?
- Why does nearness to nature make the farmer realize his dependence on God? Why should: "Give us this day our daily bread" seem less real to a man living in a modern big city?
- Why is a farmer's responsibility so sacred?
- Discuss fully the obligation and means of creating a religious atmosphere in the home. Contrast the conditions and possibilities of a farm family and a city family in this.
- What are some of the means by which parents can supply the lack of facilities in religious training for their children? Discuss this obligation fully?
- In your own community, do your children have sufficient opportunity for religious instruction? Could matters be improved by some kind of cooperative action?
- Is any effort being made to spread the knowledge of the Church among those not in the Church? Do Catholics have any obligation in this regard? What can be done about it?
- What is the parish's part in the organization of the Church? List the differences between a city parish and a country parish.
- Is your parish a center of Catholic life and activity? If not, why not? What are you going to do about it now?
- Since education is a preparation for life, should the rural school be just like the city school?
- Examine the textbooks, work projects, etc. in your school. Then answer this question: Is the ideal put before my children: life in the city, or life in the country?
- What are the qualifications of a good rural teacher? Have you made it your business to see to it that the teachers in your school measure up to these qualifications?
- What do your children learn about building a better rural home? A better rural community? Be specific! Are your children taught the history and the principles of cooperatives, credit unions, etc.? If not, why not?
- What persons have the greatest obligation to take care of the training and education of the child?
- Can this obligation be handed over to the state? Entirely? Can it be seized by the state?
- Why does the federal government tend to take over education? What arguments are offered by those who favor federal control of education? Can you answer them?
- What means direct and indirect is the federal government using to gain control of education? How can a rural group remove any excuse for this interference with local education?
- Answer this one honestly: Have you done all in your power through constant vigilance and intelligent cooperation to see to it that your children have the best possible facilities for a good rural education?
- Just what is a practical school? How long should it last? Who would teach it? Do you know of any place where such schools have been held? With what success?
- Should a person's education end with regular school? What facilities are there in your community for adult education? Are they being used? If not, why not? Do we want an adult education program? What plans should we make now?
- Compare the advantages of healthful living on the farm with those in the city. Are there some advantages in the city that we could just as well have in the country?
- Which statement is correct: life on the farm is more healthful than in the city; or life on the farm can be more healthful? Discuss.
- Does your community have an adequate program of health education? Adequate hospitalization? Adequate health inspection and clinics? What about health and hospital insurance?
- Do your children have all the facilities for health that city children enjoy? What can be done about it? What have other communities done in this regard?
- What should be our attitude toward government aid in our health program? Discuss fully. Are there extremists on both sides in your community? Are they apt to be right?
- How do you explain the lack of cooperation between many rural towns and the surrounding rural community? What about your own district?
- Have you any organization in which members of the rural district and members of the rural town can meet and discuss their mutual problems? Are they dependent on one another?
- Has the government been of any help in building up rural towns and countrysides? Do you know the needs of your community and do you have practical plans for making use of the government aid in the future? Can you get it without plans?
- How can misunderstandings between farmers and city people be cleared up? Is this misunderstanding all on the part of the city group? Do farmers understand the problems of city labor? Should farm groups study these problems?
- Does the Divine command to feed the starving and clothe the naked hold in regard to other countries? Is it binding on nations? Let's be honest in discussing this next one. Are we willing to have this country feed or help to feed and clothe the needy in Europe even when there is no reasonable prospect of repayment?
- Why will it not be enough just to give food and clothing?
- Will the gradual rehabilitation of agriculture in the stricken countries force us to readjust our own agricultural program? Can we learn anything in this regard from a consideration of the last postwar period?
- What do we know about our Latin American neighbors? Have we any obligation to study a little about their problems or should we be content to take whatever a prejudiced and money-controlled press is pleased to pass on to us? How many of us read articles on Latin America in the Catholic Press?
- How might this country assist Latin America?
- What factors cause farmers to tend towards isolationism?
- Why must the modern farmer be acquainted with foreign affairs? World trade? The tariff question?
- How do you explain the fact that people spoke of overproduction in agriculture on a world scale when even in our own country one-third of the population was undernourished?
- How can farmers prevent our foreign policy from being dictated by big business? Can individual farmers do much about this? Can educated and united farmers do a great deal?
- Can you prove that agriculture is the most important part of a nation's economy? Do you know what part of the earth's population lives on the land?
- What are the arguments of those who favor an economy of scarcity?
- What must we change in our economic set up to have an economy of abundance?
- Can overproduction frequently be explained by the poor distribution of wealth and earning power which deprives many of consuming power? This merits some discussion.
- We have seen and studied the problem. What are we going to do about it? Are we willing to make the sacrifices required to work with others? When carrying out the program calls for changing our plans and even personal inconvenience of a graver nature, how far are we willing to go? What are our obligations to pledge active support to this program as coming from: a promoter of the Christian family? A member of the community? A citizen of the state and nation? A member of the Mystical Body of Christ because of whom all men are brothers?
- Leo XIII, Laetitiae Sanctae, Sept. 6, 1892.
- Pius VII, Letter, September 15, 1802.
- Pius XI to Italian Rural Priests, January, 1938.
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