I wish to paint tonight two pictures, one bright and one gloomy. I beg you to consider both of them, and I shall begin with the gloomy one.
Two years ago this fall a great cry of distress went up from the tobacco farmers of Eastern North Carolina. Tobacco prices were so low that the efforts to help them could not stop within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. The governor of your State, together with a great number of agricultural leaders, was called upon to go to Washington for a conference there with senators and representatives in Congress, spokesmen of the Federal Farm Board and the Department of Agriculture, and for personal appeals to invited representatives of the tobacco companies. The Department of Agriculture said farmers should have reduced their acreage. The Federal Farm Board said farmers should have organized. The farmers answered that they had not had sufficient time or warning for adopting either program, but notice was given that we could not go back to Washington if farmers in 1930 ignored the warning and produced a still larger crop.
Nevertheless that is what happened. The 1929 crop of tobacco was 750 million pounds and sold for an average of 17.82 cents. In 1930 the bright tobacco production increased to 852 million pounds, and the price dropped to 11.86 cents per pound. The opening of the markets in Eastern North Carolina brought greater cries of distress than the year before. Mass meetings were held. Representatives of the Federal Farm Board were invoked, organization plans developed, and the general expectation was that the opening of 1931 would find a large proportion of farmers organized and practically 100 per cent of them ready to cut acreage.
On the contrary, the majority of the farmers seem to prefer to wait until the marketing season to organize-- when it will again be too late--and to increase the