|By Robert Cohen Executive Director|
TRICKY DICK’S QUICK MILK FIX "The people have got to know if their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook." Richard Nixon's immortal line was delivered during an hour-long televised question-and- answer session with 400 Associated Press reporters on November 11, 1973. Towards the end of the interview, a question was asked about whether his administration raised milk support prices in exchange for campaign contributions from the milk lobby. Denying the charge, Nixon said that Democrats led the fight in the House and Senate for higher milk prices. BACKGROUND While writing MILK: The Deadly Poison, I discovered transcripts of Nixon's actual meeting with dairymen on March 23, 1971. Knowing the tapes were running, and having been presented with $3 million dollars in cash, Nixon was recorded saying: "Uh, I know...that, uh, you are a group that are politically very conscious... And you're willing to do something about it. And, I must say a lot of businessmen and others...don't do anything about it. And you do, and I appreciate that. And I don't have to spell it out." After the dairymen had left, advisor John Connally was alone with Nixon, and said: "They are tough political operatives. This is a cold political deal." I had not known all of the facts surrounding this case until recently. After thumbing through old issues of Hoard's Dairyman, the dairy farmer's magazine I found new evidence. THE EVIDENCE OF A CRIMINAL ACT The April 10, 1971 issue went to press at about the same time Nixon was meeting with the dairymen. At that time, Clifford Hardin was serving as the Secretary of Agriculture. Hoard's reported that milk prices would not be raised during 1971 because there was an increase in milk production, and the government found no logical support for a price hike. Here is what Hoard's wrote: "Price supports will continue at $4.66 in marketing year starting April 1. Secretary Hardin cited increased milk production as reason for not boosting support level." The following issue of Hoard's, published on April 25th, 1971, contained this report: "The dairy support increase still has everybody talking here. Veteran observers can't believe yet that President Nixon moved so quickly. There's a new respect for the four large dairy cooperatives that persuaded the President the 27-cent increase was justified." HOARD'S EDITORIAL Within that issue, Hoard's places an indelible timeline upon the delivery of $3 million in cash, and Nixon's shocking change of mind. The "gift" was delivered on a Tuesday afternoon, March 23, 1971. On the morning of March 25th, Nixon announced at his Cabinet session that a 27 cent increase would take effect seven days later. Hoard's wrote: "There was great surprise in the nation's Capitol and joy among dairy farmers. A change in position of this magnitude has not been noted in many decades." Hoard's knew nothing about the bribe. They reported: "There is little doubt in anyone's mind that full credit for persuading the President is due almost entirely to the work and support of the four cooperatives named on page 471." A detailed article on page 471 revealed the identities of the four dairy groups: Associated Milk Producers, Inc., Mid- America Dairymen, Inc., Dairymen Inc., and Pure Milk Products Cooperative. Try not to laugh. Hoard's writes: "Dairymen in attendance at the meeting told Hoard's Dairyman they were impressed with the the President's deep interest in their case and the penetrating questions he asked." What seems to have been penetrated was the integrity of the American people. What did this $3 million dollar "investment" do for the dairy industry? In 1971, 120 billion pounds of milk were produced. An additional 27 cents per hundred pounds of milk translated to $3.24 billion extra dollars for the dairy industry. On March 23, 1971, Secretary of the Treasury, John Connally summarized the day's events to Nixon: "These dairymen are organized; they're adamant, they're militant...And they, they're massing an enormous amount of money that they're going to put into political activities, very frankly." People often ask me if I have any concern over a dairy industry lawsuit. I usually laugh at that suggestion. I have zero concern. I don't imagine that they would be that stupid. As a matter of fact, I would welcome such litigation. Imagine Court TV's coverage of "Dairy on Trial?" The immortal words of NBA ballplayer, Charles Barkley, best sum up the likelihood of the dairy industry filing a potential suit against me: "My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character."
Robert Cohen author of: MILK A-Z
Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dairy Education Board
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