Our answer to those who question labor's interest in how many acres there should be on a farm, is that they go down in the Central Valley and take a look at the large landholdings. As one individual summarized it : "The name ‘okie' did not come from Oklahoma; it came from the Central Valley. In communities where the farms are small, there are stores and buying power to keep the goods of factory workers moving. Where the corporation farms spread out for thousands of acres, you will find a blighted area with landless exploited hired workers who have little in their pockets to attract thriving towns and businesses. But more than that, there is the plight of the workers themselves to consider ** * If you need one more reason, go up to Sacramento and watch the antisocial influence of the corporation farmers on progressive legislation * * * There is more than a little of that same influence in Washington." (Joseph D. Keenan, before San Francisco Conference of Labor's League for Political Action, 1949)

A careful study published by the Senate Small Business Committee the famous comparison of the two Central Valley communities of Arvin and Dinubaconfirms this opinion from known conditions in California. Family-size farms mean better balanced communities, more local-business volume, more merchants, more churches and civic organizations, more independent farmers and fewer landless workers.

This is what is involved in the bills before this committee. The excess-lands law distributes water equitably among people as a means of justifying the spending of public money for public benefits; of preventing monopoly and controlling speculation in water; and of curbing the growth of corporate farming and the concentration of economic power. But it is more than that. Fundamentally it is a means absolutely necessary for the preservation of family-size farming and a broad base for American social and political democracy by encouraging widespread ownership of land.

National reclamation policy has been generous to the West. We find no one who wants to repeal that generosity. The largest beneficiaries seem determined only to destroy that part of national policy intended to prevent monopolization by the few of the benefits from public resources and public appropriations. In other words, they want the resources and the money, but not the policy. Organized labor believes they should not have the resources and the public aid except according to the policy.

BARRETT "INTEREST FORMULA” VERSUS RESTORATION OF POLICY S. 2541 sets forth in section 3 the "interest formula" for abandonment of the excess-lands law. It gives excess landholders the right to receive water for their excess lands without signing a recordable contract so long as interest is paid “on that portion of the construction charges attributable to lands * * * held in excess of the land-limitation provisions of reclamation law.”

The interest rate to be charged would be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury "by estimating the average annual yield to maturity, on the basis of daily closing market-bid quotations of prices during the month of May preceding the fiscal year in which the loan is made, on all outstanding marketable obligations of the United States having a maturity date of 15 or more years from the first day of such month of May and by adjusting such estimated average annual yield to the nearest one-eighth of 1 percent at the beginning of the fiscal year preceding the date on which the contract is executed."

The formula is identical to that in the Small Reclamation Projects Act which S. 1425 seeks to repeal. It is a formula that strips the law of substance and leaves shadow. It offers to sell national policy in exchange for a few pieces of money, and thereby undermines reclamation policy as "commutation" undermined the Homestead Act. The deadly effects of "commutation" were well known to the framers of reclamation policy, and that is why Congress forbade it in the National Reclamation Act of 1902.

We frankly submit that if Congress no longer adheres to the excess-lands provision in that act, it should be honest enough to repeal the antimonopoly antispeculation protection outright. If as indicated by repeated rejection of repeal efforts, the contrary is true, then the interest formula must be repealed as proposed in S. 1425. There is no middle ground between “commutation" and “policy,” because insofar as the purpose of the excess-lands provision is concerned, the two are totally incompatible.

The Sacramento Bee correctly tagged the formula when it was first adopted in the Small Reclamation Projects Act in 1956. Noting that the formula would more likely win favor with excess-land owners than it would spread the benefits


of reclamation projects and enlarge the opportunity for family-size farms, the Bee cited a letter from the Southern Pacific Co. to the Bureau of Reclamation indicating its approval of the formula (Sacramento Bee, October 17, 1956).

The letter, dated October 1, 1956, has been published in San Luis project hearings issued by the House in January 1958. Its pertinent provisions read as follows: “* * * Southern Pacific Co. owns about 65,000 acres within the Westlands Water District in Fresno and Kings Counties, and an additional 55,000 acres outside of (westerly and above) said district but within the so-called San Luis service area. The company also owns about 30,000 acres in southern Kings and Kern Counties which might be served by the Feather River project.

“These lands are not being offered for sale, but are being held for long-range management purposes * * *

“Southern Pacific is not prepared to commit these lands for sale under the usual Bureau of Reclamation type recordable contract. We favor State or local development and control of water resources but welcome Federal aid provided the conditions thereof are reasonable and bearable. Further, we neither seek nor expect any Federal subsidy in the form of 40-year interest-free money, but are willing to pay our fair share of the irrigation benefits provided the capital and operating costs are such that the land and crops can afford

* * *" [Italic added.] The Southern Pacific, with 150,000 acres, should indeed look with favor upon the interest formula because it was developed over a long period of consideration of ways and means of making the excess-land provision palatable to excessland holders. The Southern Pacific's letter, in effect, suggests that the formula in the Small Reclamation Projects Act should be given universal application us proposed by S. 2541 (Barrett).

The comments on the formula of Congressman William A. Dawson of Utah when the small reclamation projects bill was being heard before the House Subcommittee on Irrigation and Reclamation bear repeating in regard to S. 2541 :

* * And to say that these large landowners are going to pay interest on their excess and therefore, it is going to result in breaking up the large ownerships just is not true. For this reason: that there are plenty of other benefits in this bill which they have not been receiving up to this point that they would get even though paying the interest.

"For instance, they get the advantage of the nonreimbursable items, which may be considerable, but which are not repaid * * *

“Furthermore, up until this point they are not getting in on any cheap Government money. By .cheap' I mean if they pay interest, they are still only going to pay 212 percent or something in that neighborhood, which is very reasonable money. That could even be encouragement for people to get into big ownerships and to take on more acreage, because the other benefits are so great * * *"

No further comment is necessary. It is not possible to uphold the purpose of the excess-lands law and at the same time support the Barrett interest formula unless a premium is to be placed on hypocrisy. We urge that the formula be stricken from the Small Reclamation Projects Act, as proposed in S. 1425, and that its extension in S. 2541 be rejected.

SUPPLEMENTAL WATER—THE DISCREDITED PLEA OF THE MONOPOLIST It is to be noted that S. 2541, in extending the interest formula, adds insult to injury by employing the supplemental water subterfuge of the landed monopolists. In this respect, the bill reads: "This proviso interest formula) shall be applicable only when the works of such project or division of a project deliver a supplemental supply of water for irrigation * *

It is almost laughable that this language should be added as if it were restrictive of the application of the interest formula. We note, however, the absence of a definition of "supplemental" water, and recall only too vividly the efforts of the forces behind S. 2541 to exempt the entire Central Valley project of California from the excess-lands law on this false premise.

No definition is necessary. We know what the old argument is-it runs like this: Reclamation law, including acreage limitation, applies only to lands which are totally reclaimed by Federal aid; it is unsuited to privately developed lands needing only supplemental water, and was never intended to apply in this case.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The public record is literally filled with declarations of those who framed and passed the national reclamation law of 1902 to the effect that the purpose of the original reclamation law was just the contrary; that is, the first purpose was to provide supplementary water to imperiled communities of private landholders, and then, if more water was available, to provide a full supply to other lands, either public or private.

It is not necessary to search this record. We need go only to the report of the Central Valley Project Studies, problem 19, which contains a study of the acreage limitation and excess-lands provision of reclamation law. After quoting a series of clear-cut declarations of the framers of our national reclamation law, the study concluded :

“These statements, and others of like character that could be cited, indicate quite clearly that the sponsors of reclamation arrived at conscious decisions (1) in favor of acreage limitation, (2) in favor of supplemental as well as primary irrigation, (3) in favor of the irrigation of private as well as public lands, and (4) in favor of steps necessary to force the breaking up of large holdings. Provisions in the Reclamation Act of 1902, respective of these points, were not there by accident or through insufficient consideration; they represented deliberate decisions based upon thorough discussion.”

A study in the same report of the Central Valley Project Studies, problem 19, on the “Legislative and Administrative History of Acreage Limitation and Control of Speculation on Federal Reclamation Projects," concludes:

“There is no difference in principle between a supplemental and a primary supply insofar as the wisdom of applying acreage limitations and antispeculation provisions is concerned. Pressure to relax the restrictions in such cases may be viewed as a flank attack upon the whole policy * *

The truth of the matter is that all irrigation provided under Federal reclamation law is supplemental, and always has been, because it supplements either rainfall or underground water, or both.

Indeed, that such a broad construction of "supplemental water" might be implied in S. 2541 is more than a figment of the imagination. The provision specifying the application of the interest formula to so-called supplemental waters reads on as follows: "or when water is delivered for the irrigation of lands which have been subjected to cultivation for the production of agriculture crops for more than 10 years prior to the authorization of such project or division of a project.”

Clearly, this provision exempts from the application of the excess-lands provision lands that are changed by a reclamation project from dry to irrigated farming, so long as the dry farming has been carried on for 10 years. No statement of the intended scope of Senator Barrett's interest formula could be clearer.

ADMINISTRATIVE POWER TO REJECT OR ENFORCE PUBLIC POLICY There remains for consideration the proposal in S. 2541 to give the Secretary of Interior, in the case of all reclamation projects, the authority to determine the economic adequacy of 160 acres of irrigated land for the support of an average-sized family and to modify this amount of acreage accordingly.

As noted at the outset, essentially the same authority is granted piecemeal in S. 3448 for the Seedskadee project.

We seriously challenge the wisdom of granting such authority on several counts.

First, we question the need for such authority at all. We are yet to be convinced by arguments that 160 acres of irrigated land is not sufficient to sustain a good life for an average-sized family. We submit that if this is ever the case, the use of scarce reclamation funds to bring water to such lands would be an uneconomic expenditure to save marginal lands that should go out of production. Further, for all practical purposes we are talking about water for 320 acres of irrigable land allowed a man and wife under reclamation lawnot 160 acres.

We have heard it argued on numerous occasions by the opponents of reclamation law that the 160-acre provision was written many years ago, and that farming conditions have changed. We find no quarrel with these statements, but find the logic somewhat confusing. It is our impression that the change has been in the direction of increasing the productivity of land, and not the contrary, as seems to be implied by such glib assertions. It is true that modern technology makes it possible now to farm more and more acres with less and less manpower, but no one has demonstrated that 160 or 320 irrigated acres is too small a farm to take advantage of modern mechanical equipment and other forms of advanced technology, or that such acreage is not sufficient to support a family generously if not affluently anywhere in the United States. Where more acreage is said to be required by reason of soil and climate in the service area of a proposed reclama

tion project, perhaps Congress would do better to question the Department of Interior's economic feasibility report of the project, rather than give him the blanket authority to increase the amount of acreage for which project water may be delivered.

In this regard, we specifically question why a request by the Governor of an affected State should be required in S. 2541 as prerequisite for investigation and exercise of the authority granted the Secretary of the Interior.

In our opinion, this is purely loading the dice. Governors are especially vulnerable to the special interests in their desire to grab more and more land. The people who may want to protect the public interest may never hear of the pressure applied on the Governor, and therefore be precluded from any expression in the matter before the Governor acts. Further, we are talking about Federal funds. Every Governor has an interest in getting as much pork out of the barrel as possible. He therefore has an active interest in raising the acreage figure in order to justify or legalize the spending of more and more Federal funds in his State on poorer and poorer land, that is, to get more pork.

All this, however, is only secondary to organized labor's major concern. We ask seriously, what is there in the record of the Department of Interior that justifies placing the confidence in it proposed in S. 2541?

We have lived with the administration of the Central Valley project for a considerable number of years. If we have learned anything from our experience, it is that a battle won in Washington to uphold the excess lands law is no assurance that the law will be administered by the Department. We recognize the frailty of man, but we do not think it should be tolerated in the proportions suffered in the Central Valley project under unsympathetic administrators who have succumbed to the pressures and clever schemes of the landed monopolists devised to flout public policy.

We won in Washington against the monopolists when reclamation law was written into the Flood Control Act that admitted the Army engineers to the Kings and Kern Rivers for the construction of Pine Flat and Isabella Dams in the Central Valley project. Some 10 years later, both dams have been constructed, but reclamation law has neither been applied nor enforced.

In regard to the Kings River, the whole story is in the files of the California State Federation of Labor—in a series of lengthy correspondence between our office and the Secretary of Interior, dating back to the beginning of the current administration in 1953, urging against the negotiation of a repayment contract that would allow excess landholders in the Kings service area to escape the law. While we cannot conceive that the administrative authority proposed in S. 2541 will be granted, we nevertheless request that should this subcommittee be so inclined, it first review the sad record of the Department on the Kings River. The California State Federation of Labor would be pleased to make the above-mentioned series of communications available for subcommittee study and investigation.

The fate of reclamation law on the Kings River still hangs in the balance, and the tragedy experienced thus far may well be repeated in regard to the negotiation of a repayment contract for the irrigation benefits of Isabella Dam. Again we urge your investigation prior to acting on the proposal before you.

For your further consideration, we are attaching to this statement a thoroughly documented study of the failure of enforcement of the excess lands provision on the Salt River project in Arizona, prepared and written by Klaus G. Leowald of the University of California. We request that it be printed in the record of these hearings. This study, we believe, will remove any doubts that may exist about whether the Department of the Interior can be trusted with the authority proposed.

Finally, we raise the question whether authority granted the Department in the two Barrett bills is not in actuality a delegation of the policy-formation function of Congress to the executive branch of Government without any specific legislative criteria for exercise of the authority granted. The criteria spelled out in the last sentence of section 1 of the bill relate only to the physical aspects of a family-size farm. These in turn are dependent upon what is considered to be a “suitably profitable level” of operation for the support of a family farm. The suggestion is that some unknown income standard is to be applied. Nowhere does the bill define such an income standard. Under these conditions, we respectfully submit that the bill does not contemplate a grant of administrative authority. It proposes a congressional abandonment of policy.

A 56-year-old policy, in this centenary year of the birth of Theodore Roosevelt who, as President, inspired the excess lands provision, surely is deserving of better treatment. By the same token, 1958 is the proper year to repair the damages of previous onslaughts against Theodore Roosevelt's principle of equality of distribution embodied in the excess-lands law. A long step in this direction would be the enactment of S. 1425.

[ocr errors]


Fresno, Calif., April 23, 1958. Senator CLINTON ANDERSON, Chairman, Senate Irrigation and Reclamation Subcommittee,

Washington, D. C. DEAR SENATOR ANDERSON : Would you please enter the enclosed editorial, Reclamation Law-Bare Platitudes or New Vigor? into the record of your hearings on the antimonopoly and antispeculation provisions of Federal reclamation law which will open next Wednesday. Sincerely,


RECLAMATION LAW-BARE PLATITUDES OR NEW VIGOR? While the headline hunters emote over a couple piddling crooked contractors and a handful of penny-ante union racketeers, backstage the United States Senate scenery is quietly being set for one of the most important domestic political battles in this session of congress.

Senator Clinton Anderson, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Irrigation and Reclamation has quietly—and I do mean quietly-announced hearings beginning April 30 on three water bills.

The outcome of these hearings could finally destroy the much-weakened Federal reclamation regulations against land speculation and water monopoly, or they could restore to full vigor those 50-year-old bulwarks of demoncracy and equal opportunity.

The outcome depends on what we do here in California. On one side, those great liberal Democratic Senators Paul Douglas, Wayne Morse and Richard Neuberger have introduced S. 1425 which would fully enforce antispeculation and antimonopoly provisions on all water projects. On the other side is Republican Senator Frank Barrett, partner in evasion with large landowners, pushing S. 2541 and S. 3148 which would legalize factory farmers' attempts to evade compliance with Federal reclamation regulations.

Even with strict enforcement of the law, large landowners stand to reap a bountiful financial harvest and incidentally become just that much more powerful politically. But with the Barrett formula-trading Federal policy for a few hollow words—the Central Valley of California would become the private political and financial playground of the already rich and powerful large landowners.

It is up to us. We can stop this latest grab just as it was stopped in 1947 and 1944. We can back Douglas, Morse, and Neuberger. Each individual can write Senator Clinton Anderson asking that their letters be published in the record.

Each local union and council can pass resolutions supporting the DouglasMorse-Neuberger bill and condemning the Barrett sellout (sending these resolutions to Washington).

This is the only way we can stop this high-powered, well-financed campaign by the large landowners. Otherwise we should prepare our great fertile valley for an endless plague of Mendotas and temporary farm labor camps-occupied only seasonally by meek and mute farm laborers, imported to do the bidding of the land barons.

The large landholdings grew directly from the devious political-financial maneuverings of a former generation. Are the sins of the fathers to be officially sanctioned by rewriting reclamation law ? Making the sons even richer ? Richer at the expense of the general taxpayer? And more powerful politically at the expense of our liberal democratic institutions ?

The pressure is on. Reclamation law will be sold out to the bare platitudes if we in our local labor, civic, and farm organizations don't do something-right now.

« ForrigeFortsett »