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Selected Works of Henry A. Wallace
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Pigs and Pig Iron
Henry A. Wallace
A speech delivered November 12, 1935.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 103.
- People are still interested in the six million pigs that were killed in September of 1933. In letters I have received following these radio talks, the pigs are mentioned more often than any one thing except potatoes. One letter says:
- "It just makes me sick all over when I think how the government has killed millions and millions of little pigs, and how that has raised pork prices until today we poor people cannot even look at a piece of bacon:"
- It is common belief that pork is high today because the little pigs were killed in 1933. As a matter of fact, there is more pork now and the price is lower because these pigs were killed two years ago. Let me tell the story:
- For eighteen months before August, 1933, farmers had been selling hogs for an average of $3.42 a hundredweight. Such a price was ruinous to farmers. The average hog grower suffered from low hog prices during this period one thousand times more than the average consumer has suffered from high hog prices during the past few months. Hog prices in August of 1933 were intolerably low, and the northwestern Corn Belt was suffering from drought. There was every reason to expect prices to continue low because there had been an increase in the spring pig crop, and because the foreign market, which formerly had absorbed the product of as many as twelve million hogs from this country, had largely disappeared because of tariffs and quotas.
- So six million little pigs were killed in September of 1933. They were turned into one hundred million pounds of pork. That pork was distributed for relief. It went to feed the hungry. Some very small pigs could not be handled as meat by the packers. These were turned into grease and tankage for fertilizer.
- If those six million pigs had grown up they would have been marketed in January, February, and March of 1934. They probably would have brought around $2.50 a hundredweight. Instead of that the price of hogs at that time averaged $3.60. In January, February, and March of 1934, the consumers of the United States, in spite of the absence of the little pigs which would have come to market at that time, had their customary quantity of pork. Hogs at $3.60 made it possible for farmers to buy more city products and so put more city people back to work.
- If those little pigs had grown up to normal weight they would have eaten about seventy-five million bushels of corn. The pork made out of these seventy-five million bushels of corn would have been consumed by August, 1934. But because of the emergency pig marketing program those seventy-five million bushels of corn were not eaten in early 1934. You remember that in 1934 we had the most terrible drought in our history. The corn crop was a billion bushels short. In that situation we had on hand those seventy-five million bushels of corn produced the year before, and that corn was used to make pork in late 1934 and early 1935. It gave us more pork this year than we would have had without it. Had it been fed in early 1934 the oversupply of pork would have been terrific then and the price would have been $2.50 a hundredweight instead of $3.60. But this year there would have been even fewer hogs and even higher prices than we have had.
- As long as we have our program of Agricultural Adjustment we shall never again need to slaughter little pigs to keep hog prices from going to zero. We have the machinery to furnish, consumers a normal, balanced supply.
- I suppose it is a marvelous tribute to the humanitarian instincts of the American people that they sympathize more with little pigs which are killed than with full-grown hogs. Some people may object to killing pigs at any age. Perhaps they think that farmers should run a sort of old-folks home for hogs and keep them around indefinitely as barnyard pets. But we have to think about farmers as well as hogs. And we must think about consumers and try to get a uniform supply of pork from year to year at a price which is fair to farmer and consumer alike.
- The drought of 1934, which cut the supply of feed grain by twice as much as any previous drought, is chiefly responsible for high pork prices today. The laughter of little pigs in 1933 gave us more pork and lower prices this year than we would have had if they had been allowed to live and eat those seventy-five million bushels of corn. Those who hold to the contrary are misinformed.
- Beef prices are high now because of the same drought. We have never had an A.A.A. production-control program in beef. Thousands of cattle were on the point of starvation in the West in 1934. Should we have allowed them to starve? Because we had the machinery of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, we were able to step in promptly, buy those cattle, slaughter them and can them. The government has thus been able to distribute hundreds of millions of pounds of meat for relief that would otherwise have been wasted.
- Strange to say, I find myself in strong sympathy with the attitude of many folks who held up their hands in horror about the killing of little pigs. I will go further than most of them in condemning scarcity economics. We want an economy of abundance, but it must be balanced abundance of those things we really want. The pig-iron reduction control of the big steel companies in 1933 was in principle one thousand times as damnable as the pig-reduction campaign of 1933. Pig-iron production in 1932 was about twenty percent of that in 1933. Pig production in 1933 in pounds was ninety-seven percent of that of 1929. In 1934 pig-iron production was forty-five percent of that of 1929. Pig production in 1934, the drought year, was eighty percent of that of 1929. In other words, farmers cut pig production three percent when steel companies cut pig-iron production eighty percent. That sort of industrial reduction program plowed millions of workers out into the streets. It is because of that industrial reduction program that we have to spend billions for relief to keep the plowed-out workers from starvation. I hope industry in future reduction programs will not find it desirable to plow millions of workers out of their jobs. People are more important than pigs.
- Great corporations should not finance people to attack Agricultural Adjustment. They are too vulnerable. Instead they should co-operate with agriculture to bring about increased, balanced production of those things which the American people really want at a price which they can afford to pay, but at a price high enough to keep the production coming without undue speculative gain. If industry were as productive as it knows how to be, the increased home market for fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products would be truly surprising. But this market cannot come to pass until industry ceases its reduction control program.
- My attention has been called to a statement by a minister out in the Corn Belt before the district conference of his faith. Concerning the actions of the New Deal he says: ". . . some of them are downright sinful as the destruction of foodstuffs in the face of present want."
- I have been used to statements of this sort by partisans, demagogues, politicians, and even newspaper columnists. To men of this sort I pay no attention, because I know that their interest in a cause makes it impossible for them to distinguish truth from falsehood. But when a minister of the gospel makes a statement, we expect it to be the truth. Just what food does he think this administration has destroyed? We would like to know the specific instances. If he is merely referring to acreage control which enabled us to keep out of use in 1935 some thirty million of the fifty million acres which have produced in the past for markets in foreign countries, I would say, "Yes we are guilty of acreage control and, depending on variations in weather, we shall continue to be until foreign purchasing power is restored by the breaking down of tariff and quota barriers."
- We have not destroyed foodstuffs. We do not contemplate destroying them. However, foodstuffs were destroyed back in 1932 by farmers who found it profitable to burn their corn for fuel rather than to sell it for ten cents a bushel (which amounted to $3.33 a ton). It was cheaper for many farmers in the northwest Corn Belt to burn food for fuel at those pitiful prices than to burn coal.
- People who believe that we ordered the destruction of food are merely the victims of their prejudices and the misinformation that has been fed to them by interested persons. What we actually did was to stop the destruction of foodstuffs by making it worth while for farmers to sell them rather than to destroy them.
- Agricultural Adjustment of the past two years has been a million times as warranted as the industrial reduction policy of the past five years. Why does not the minister attack the industrial reduction which was made possible by corporate and tariff laws? It was this reduction by industry that created the unemployment and destroyed the farmers' markets. Might it not be better for all of us to do what is possible to build up on the part of both agriculture and industry a situation which will result in greatly increased balanced output of those things which we really want?
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