A shock of white hair, more than 27 years' service in Congress* and the chairmanship of the Committee on Agriculture of the House make Gilbert Nelson Haugen a grand old man. Last week he had cause to celebrate. In the first place he had his birthday and entered upon his 68th year, and in the second place farm relief legislation began to pop to the fore, and farm relief is his business.
The thing that brought farm relief to the fore was the approach of the fall election, which is beginning to give some Congressmen cold feet. The talk has got about in Washington that it was dissatisfaction of the farmers rather than dissatisfaction of the anti-World-Courters which defeated Senator McKinley in the Illinois primary recently. Besides, the Administration nodded to Congress, "Go ahead with farm bills if you don't go too far." So Mr. Haugen and his colleagues (there are 13 Republicans and 9 Democrats on the Committee on Agriculture) set to work in earnest to turn out bills dealing with the farm surplus problem.
It was not directly at Mr. Haugen, who is an lowan, but at Mr. Tincher of Kansas that the President and Secretary Jardine nodded. Mr. Tincher has a bill which would create a Federal Farm Board and endow it with the use of $100,000,000 until 1950. This board would lend its funds to farmers' cooperatives, which would buy and hold the farm surplus so as to maintain farm prices whenever there was an excessive crop. The Administration was willing to indorse this bill, saying that it did not put the government in business.
Mr. Haugen and his agricultural committee decided to report this Tincher bill to the House. But they went further. They decided also to report another bill, which has been dubbed the Haugen bill because of its resemblance to the McNary-Haugen bill which unsuccessfully vexed the last Congress. This new Haugen bill would set up a board similar to that proposed by the Tincher bill, but it would go further: it would endow the board with $350,000,000 instead of $100,000,000. and provide that if the farmers' co-operatives were unable to cope with the surplus problem, the board itself could buy grain or other produce to maintain domestic prices at the world price plus the tariff. Also, after two years, the coffers of the board would be annually replenished by an "equalization fee," a kind of tax collected by the government on all produce sold, the revenue from which would pay for any losses taken in disposing of the surpluses.
The Administration is strongly opposed to the "equalization fee" idea, describing it as an excise tax on necessities. It likewise does not like the idea of having a government board deal in farm produce. But on the face of first expressions of opinion it seems the dirt farmers prefer the Haugen bill, because it would not put the burden of dealing with the entire surplus on a few cooperatives, which might not be equal to the occasion.
So the committee adopted the unique expedient of reporting two differing bills and giving the House the difficult task of choosing between them.
Certainly if the House faces the issue, the debate will be bitter and Mr. Haugen will have a chance to celebrate and be celebrated as never before.