Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 20, 1975 · Page 37
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 37

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 20, 1975
Page 37
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"It u'ouid have heen nice to haie $7) uheat" says farmer W a r r e n Knox wistfully. Hut he doesn't see much chance of so high a price unless his old friends the Russians hu\ American uheat again. neer by the Bushel * O J Wheat Sample Used to Estimate Moisture Content of Grain Kansas Farmer Warren Knox Not Satisfied With Prices -APWirepholo By Dave Bartel SOUTH HAVEN, Kan. - UP)'- Golden grain hisses in an arch from the combine's outstretched arm into the waiting truck as Warren Knox smiles behind the glass of the combine cabin. It is the happy smile of a man finally harvesting his wheat. Rain has delayed the national harvest two weeks. The combines should have finished in Kansas and moved on to Nebraska in early July. The wheat harvest, now near the halfway point, appears to be a record one. The price paid to farmers has risen well above $3 a bushel in the past two weeks because of Russian purchase of American wheat. But the price still is well below the $4.50 a bushel posted last fall, and farmers are angry. For the second year in a row, many are engaged in what they call "orderly marketing" -- refusing to sell their wheat until their action drives up the price still further. "I haven't sold a bushel yet," Knox says. "I'm going to hold on for two or three months at least and see what prices do. If we can get our export market going, we'll get a better price." The U. S. Department of Agriculture says the 1975 American harvest will be 2.1 billion bushels. It was nearly 1.8 billion in 1974. One billion bushels or more are to be exported, much of it to India and other undeveloped countries with hunger problems. · BUT EXPORT ORDERS have been sluggish, partly because of good wheat, harvests expected abroad and partly because buyers are waiting to get the lowest possible prices. As the last grain sweeps from the combine at the edge of his field, Knox revs the big engine and turns the machine to park it at roadside. The 53-year-old farmer was a B17 bomber pilot during World War II. and he maneuvers the combine with a pilot's skill and grace. Opening the cabin door, Knox pauses for a moment to study the low ceiling of gray clouds that hover over his 1,200 acres of wheat fields. "I sure would like to see some sunshine," he says. Knox, his wife, Barbara, who drives the truck into which the combine dumps the wheat, and their 19-year-old son, Kenneth, Sunday Gazette-Mail Charleston, W.Va. July 20, 1975 Page 3 operating a second combine, are attempting on this muggy, overcast afternoon in early July to cut 300 of the 73 million acres seeded in wheat by the nation's farmers. Work grinds to a halt, however, as Ben Palen, a neighbor's son helping the Knox family, brings word from the local elevator operator that the grain can't be stored because it registers above the 15 per cent moisture content considered the maximum allowable. With a stoic shrug, Knox turns off the combine engine and walks to the truck, where other harvesters have gathered to talk. Conversation immediately is interrupted by the arrival of Wilbur Campbell and his crew, custom combiners who follow the harvest. Their two new combines, 12-ton machines each worth more than $40,000, are sitting in mud in a nearby field. · "I DON'T KNOW WHAT to do," Campbell says. "I'm seriously thinking about pulling out and going farther north where we can do some work." He'estimates it costs $50 a day just to feed and house his idled crew. Campbell, a Sabetha, Kan., farmer himself, is paid $8 an acre to cut wheat, but he earns nothing if he cannot get into the fields. "I want to do what's right," he laments. "I don't feel I can just say to hell with this man and leave him with wheat standing in the field, but I've got other people waiting for me on up the line. What should I do?" The circle of Knox workers is silent. The question has no answer. Talk resumes about wheat prices, the lack of replacement parts for machinery and, of course, the weather. Then, Camp- Richard L. Strout Shades of Ayn Rand I keep running across bits and pieces of Ayn Rand in Mr. Ford's speeches, She's the female guru of a cult called "rational selfishness" or "objectivism", whose most famous chela is Alan Greenspan, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Amidst roars of applause Mr. Ford told a convention of small businessmen here that he wanted to get "government off your back", that Washington is becoming "an instrument of philanthropic collectivism"--the "big daddy of all citizens" and that "over a period of 90 years we have erected a massive federal regulatory structure." It sounded familiar. Yes, here was chairman Greenspan's comment, written in 1966, when Miss Rand declared, "Alan is my disciple philosophically." "Regulation--which is based on force and fear-undermines the moral basis of business dealings." (He was attacking the Securities and Exchange Commission and other consumer protection agencies.) I have taken to spotting the Ayn Rand factor in other presidential comments. Out in Cincinnati the other day he came back to that 90-year bit: "Over a period of 90 years," he told an audience, "we have gradually erected a massive federal regulatory structure . . " NINETY YEARS-? That was back in the blessed reign of Chester A. Arthur when an unregulated America had Jay Gould and Jim Fisk and Cornelius Vanderbilt and other bandits, and trade unions were outlawed, and there was no nonsense about child labor laws or pure food and drug acts. Like an old tune or attar of remembered perfume there was a whiff of Ayn Rand in the Ford speech. July 3, at Cleveland, too, where he got back a full century: "A century ago in 1876 ... Rutherford B. Hayes was the Republican candidate for president of the United States." Mr. Ford paused and feelingly recalled that Hayes said in his Inaugural Address, "He serves his party best who serves the country best." Fine sentiments! And with this impetus he went on to practically repeal the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal. "With the depression of the 1930's began r the policy of creating a new layer of federal bureaucracy for every problem in America," he complained "and then spending millions-and then billions-of dollars in the hope that money alone would solve the problem." Those ideas, he said, "are old and tired and ineffective now." The audience may have reflected'that there was nothing like that in Hayes' day. And Mr. Ford eloquently exclaimed, "What we need in this country is not a new deal but a fresh start!" It sounds reminiscent. Here's how Alan Greenspan put it in an article in Ayn Rand's house organ The Objectivist in the early 60s referring to what, by that time, critics of FDR called the welfare state: "Stripped of its economic jargon the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes." (Mr. Greenspan also attacked the antitrust laws and the graduated income tax!) ployment than we like." But hadn't his own economic team (Greenspan, Simon et al) projected a rate of unemployment through 1976 of 8 per cent--twice the "normal?" bell and his crew leave to try cutting wheat again. In only minutes, the growl of his combines tells the story of the mud. The full extent of crop damage wrought by weather, plant diseases and pests is unclear now, but one farm expert estimates that more than a million acres of winter wheat has been lost in Kansas alone since last fall. Based on the 30-bushel average yield projected for the Kansas crop, about 30 million bushels of wheat have been destroyed, enough to make bread for 17 million people for a year. Despite the loss, Kansas is expected to produce its second largest crop in state history, enough to feed the entire nation for half a year. Warren Knox is dubious about statistics that go beyond the two square miles of his cropland, but the size of the 1975 crop worries him because the record yields predicted by USDA have contributed to steady declines in wheat prices. »· ONLY A YEAR AFTER U. S. grain reserves hit a 27-year low, farmers fear a surplus is rebuilding. Wheat reserves on July 1, 1974, totaled 247 million bushels, the lowest level since Knox bought his farm in 1948. Reserves now are estimated at 285 million bushels and the Agriculture Department predicts the figure will climb to about 500 million bushels a year from now. . . The reserve situation is similar for prime feed grains such as corn. The government estimates corn stocks will total about 360 million bushels this fall and will jump to between 650 and 860 million bushels one year later. "We produce three times as much wheat as we need for ourselves," Knox says. "We eat only a third of the crop and the rest goes to export. If we don't have a good export market.. .the crop backs up and creates a surplus and our price drops out from under us." The hot, humid afternoon drags on and finally Knox decides to move to higher ground for a new test cutting to send to the elevator. The two combines whine across the fields to the edge of the remaining grain and the 16-foot headers that resemble the paddlewheels of Mississippi riverboats swing forward. When the combine hopper is filled, Knox scoops out a jelly jar full of the amber kernels and gives the jar to his wife. He takes a fistful and pops it into his mouth for his own unscientific sampling as Barbara calls: "I've got to go take the cake out of the oven," and disappears in a cloud of dust. --AP Wirephoto South Haven, Kan., Farm Wife Supervises Wheat Combine Mrs. Warren Knox Will Take Grain to Storage House MY DIFFICULTY in dealing with Mr. Ford, I find, is the same one that I had with his predecessor, Mr. Eisenhower. In the 50s I'would build up quite a head of steam against Ike during the week, only to see much of it evaporate after watching him face to face at his press conference. He was so open and disarming and unsyn- tactical. So what if he had produced inflation and recession at the same time? (Some people claimed that they couldn't understand Ike at all when he got all tied up in his grammar and his hanging participles: but actually it was easy if you just followed his eyes and gestures, and forgot his slaughtered syntax.) Mr. Ford has better grammar, and he is decent and likable, too. The other day on the South Lawn with the Monument behind and a line of far-off tourists trying to fi-_ gure out what was happening through the bars of a distant fence, the President strode down brisk, informal and attractive--and answered confidently standing behind a lectern with a small, jumpy presidential seal on it. It was very intimate and cozy. How about the economy, we asked? He smiled hopefully. Inflation is cut in half! he told as. Of course, he admitted, "as you brinidown inflation, we may have to suffer fc a short period of time higher unem- MR. FORD TUT-TUTTED: "some of my advisers", he recalled, had been over- pessimistic about the duration of double- digit inflation which now was down to 6 per cent; maybe they would be wrong, too, he opined brightly about the length of unemployment. It was an odd kind of reason for taking comfort. And it really took audacity; or complete commitment to Positivist philosophy, to go before a bleak convention of the NAACP here, and tell the anxious leaders who knew that 40 per cent of teenage blacks in the ghettos are now, by official count, unemployed, that they should be patient. He knew, he said that "recession hits hardest at low-income workers." He said it consolingly. He didn't spell it out, but the average black family today is trying to live on $58 for every $100 that the average white family lives on--a gap slippage of $3 since 1969. He was like a commander praising shock troops for their stamina in helping to right the business cycle by cutting down overconsumption. "An unstable economy," he told them, "is an enemy of equal opportunity, "Yes, and "equality of opportunity can be sustained only in the context of economic stability." Calls to the government for help in "the past 15 years", he said had produced "the federal government's spending spree." The audience was cold and polite. The chairman later called it "indifferent and unresponsive." George Meany said "cruel and fraudulent." There is no doubt that Mr. Ford believes it. Observers pinch themselves. Eight and a half million enemployed; factories at 75 per cent capacity; $100 billions lost annually in potential goods and services; the worst recession since 1929: an extra $16 billions added to the huge federal deficit with every .1 per cent of unemployment (from benefits and lost tax revenues): and yet the public is calm; the unemployed are quiet and the President leads a crusade. #)t against unemployment but against the Deal. BARBARA SOON REAPPEARS from rescuing the cake and a fast trip to the elevator. "It tests 14.10 per cent," she announces. "We're in business." Her husband does not hear. His combine is a quarter-mile away, hub deep in wheat and moving on. Late in the afternoon, Barbara Knox pulls the loaded grain truck onto the weight scales at the New Era Mills elevator in Portland, Kan. Bud Messner steps out of the small office and lets the screen door bang shut behind him. Next to the door, at Messner's elbow, is a board proclaiming, "Royal Crown Cola" and chalked below it is "Wheat $2.91." "No one is selling at that price," Messner says, lifting his white cowboy hat to scratch his head. "And, I don't blame them. That won't cover your cost of production." The Kansas Farm Management Assn. says tne cost of producing a bushel ot wheat in Kansas ranges from $2.20 to $4.07, with the average- $3.40. Messner estimates that the Portland elevator and another four miles east at Ashton have taken in more than 250,000 bushels of grain without buying a kernel. Messner's report is echoed at other elevators in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, where wheat has been harvested but farmers ar resisting prices they consider too low. They first tried the "orderly marketing" strategy last summer, selling their wheat in small amounts to push prices up by limiting supply. The strategy appeared to work as wheat prices rose from $3.20 a bushel last June to $4.56 by October. But then they began to drop, and an estimated 15 per cent of the 1974 harvest still is held by farmers, unsold. » KNOX HOPES THAT BRISK exports in coming months will solve the price problem. Part of his hope, he says, is based on reports that Russia has experienced adverse weather for its own wheat crop and may be forced to buy U.S. grain. It would not be the first time Russians have aided Knox. In 1945, the Kansas farmer was shot down on his seventh bomb run and crashed in Russian-occupied Poland. After a brief period with the Russians and treatment "like royalty," he and his crew hitchhiked back to England by way of Iran, Egypt, Italy and France and flew three more missions before the war ended. "They're not so bad," Knox says of his past hosts and potential customers. "And. if they buy a lot of wheat, the farmer will see better prices. If they don't buy any. we may be in trouble." Knox isn't afraid to say he would like to make a good profit from the wheat that required him to invest nearly everything he owned, plus the labor of his wife and son, to produce. "It would have been nice to have $5 wheat," he says wistfully. "I would have made a good profit at that price, there's no denying that." WE CONTINUE TO OFFER TOP QUALITY MEN'S WEAR AT A REDUCED PRICE OUR ENTIRE INVENTORY OF FORMAL DRESS SHIRTS ARE NOW REDUCED BY ONE-HALF. OPEN MONDAY TILL 9 AM nnui ILL 9 AM I

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