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matter how vigorously we pursue programs of flood control, flood plain zoning, and other protective measures. But I believe the Government has a responsibility to spread the risks and see to it that no one is hurt too much when devastation does occur. In all seriousness, I do not see how we as human beings can let one section of the community bear the whole burden of catastrophes over which they as individuals have no control.
The people who live in the lower valley cannot be expected to bear the full cost of floods which have their origins in the uplands. Nor is this a problem confined to any one section of the country-it concerns us whether we live in a river valley or in a place secure from floods.
I do not pretend to know all the answers, nor which provisions of the various bills you have before you are to be preferred over which other provisions. You have heard, and will hear, testimony on these technical matters from many persons who are expert in this field. But I did want to say, both as State commissioner of housing and as one who worked closely with your committee for many years, that I know you are men who care about people, about helping human beings in need and preventing personal tragedy in any way you can.
I have every confidence that you will give these problems your most earnest study and that, if it is humanly possible, you will come up with a bill which will equitably distribute these heavy burdens among all of us—the persons in the areas affected, who must do their part to lessen the risks they ask the rest of us to help share; those of us who live in the safe areas, who have a responsibility to those less fortunate; and our Government, which has the responsibility of taking measures to control floods and develop our water resources for the benefit of the whole Nation.
Thank you very much.
Senator LEHMAN. Commissioner, I want, on my own behalf and on behalf of Senator Ives and the other members of the committee who could not be here, to thank you for what I have found to be an unusually informative, interesting, and valuable document. I am not going to ask you any questions, because you have gone into the subject so carefully that I do not think it is necessary. But I want you to know that this document of yours will be very carefully studied, and you know from your own experience that in matters of this sort we on the Banking and Currency Committee will give great weight to your recommendations and statements and suggestions.
I want the record to show that even though your testimony may be at variance with that of the Governor, and even though we realize that because you have not had a chance of discussing this with him in detail, or with other officials, and the views expressed here today by you are your personal views, we are very grateful to you for coming here. We wanted your personal views. We do not think they are going to differ very much from those of Governor Ilarriman, if I remember correctly the testimony that he gave us yesterday in New York.
You were strongly urged by the staff to come here, and we realize you did not have time to go into every detail.
Senator Ives. Mr. Chairman, I want to congratulate Mr. McMurray on this very splendid presentation. You have lived up to your record with the committee as you appeared here today. I am very glad that you have been independent in this. It is independent thinking that we need at this particular time, not thinking along any particular line. The very fact that you have been independent and used your very resourceful mind and the great ingenuity you possess in this statement makes it all the more valuable. I want to express to you my own deep appreciation for what you have done.
Mr. McMURRAY. Thank you very much, Senators. I appreciate that, especially coming from two men whom I admire so much.
Senator LEHMAN. The next witnesses will be representatives of a farm group: Messrs. Jahucki, Gurda, and Jones. Who is the spokesman here?
STATEMENTS OF MICHAEL A. GURDA, BARNEY J. PAHUCKI, AND
CHRISTOPHER H. JONES, BLACK DIRT EMERGENCY COMMITTEE, ORANGE COUNTY, N. Y.
Mr. GURDA. My name is Michael Gurda, from Middletown. Although I am from Middletown, my family is in part in the black dirt area, and I am part of the black dirt area since I still grow stuff there. I represent here the Black Dirt Emergency Committee, and they represent, in turn, approximately 1,100 farmers.
The committee consists of 21 farmers sitting in this room, including the executive committee--Mr. Jones and Mr. Pahucki.
By the press I see the Governor covered part of this in his testimony yesterday in New York. However, we would like to give you further details on it. We feel, at least from the viewpoint of the 1,100 farmers, if you can imagine something being worse than losing your house if it is mortgaged, this is a situation that is actually worse. I hope to explain that in a minute.
Approximately 4,000 families live in these 4 town in Orange County-Warwick, Wawayanda, Minisink, and Goshen. Their homes are on side hills—and they cultivate this large black dirt valley through which the Wallkill River flows.
It was Senator Wagner, and that was during my time, who brought the Civilian Conservation Corps here in 1936 and 1937, and the Army engineers developed a project, and part of the flood-control
program was then put into effect. It had to be discontinued in the middle because of lack of funds, I think, at that time.
This area produces celery, onions, carrots, and vegetable crops of this kind in this black dirt soil. The value of the crop each year is approximately $15 million. Although I cite 4,000 families as not being too many, all of these families are large families. I think the size of the average family in this area is 61/2. They are all large families.
The floods occur periodically. The last major one, before 1955, was in 1938, and that was after this flood-control program had been put into effect. There were two minor ones, and by minor I mean where the damage was about a million dollars, before 1955. In 1955, in the August flood, we had this situation, very briefly.
The total acreage planted was 11,000 acres, with 6,450 acres being in onions. The average yield is 500 bags per acre. The farmers got together and we had a series of meetings. In fact, at the series of meetings immediately after the flood, there were 900 farmers present. An actual survey was made of the loss to the farmers. Before giving
. the total figures, this was the situation.
The farmers, in cultivating, in addition to possibly having a mortgage on their home, mortgage the crop. It costs a lot of money to plant the crop because of chemicals and seed. It is a very advanced type of farming. That is why we have this great yield. Then, in addition to that, there is equipment. And then the crates are out in the field.
A typical example is one of the farmers here who had a 90-percent mortgage on $18,000 worth of equipment out in the field. Then he had purchased $16,000 worth of onion crates, which were stacked ready for the harvest in August. In addition, he had a bank loan on the crop, for labor and for the fertilizer, of $22,000. Well, when this flood came and it wasn't the initial rain, but it came from New Jersey, where the lands have been cleared, as Commissioner McMurray said, and this water comes about a day later-it washed away not only all of the crops, but the speed of the water had taken all the crates, a good part of the equipment, and filled in the ditches. This area is ditched for drainage, so that we have a little over 1,000 miles of ditches in this area, privately maintained, averaging from 3 to 6 feet deep, and they are cleaned each year.
Senator LEHMAN. What is the acreage?
Mr. Gurda. The total acreage is approximately 16,000, with 11,000 being planted. This typical farmer I cite now was one of the 900, So we called a meeting with the Small Business Administration, the FIIA, the Department of Agriculture from Albany. We had at that meeting 11 agencies represented. Each agency came in and explained their program and what they could do.
So it finished up, and in final effect, that actually nothing could be done or was done, in spite of all the promises. I am going to cite this for this reason:
The farmer lost his crop, his equipment, and the chattel mortgages remained. He has no unemployment insurance. He could not make his daily living. If he left the farm and went to get a daily job, that means he has to abandon everything he had here and still pay his debts. So if he only had lost his home and had a job, he would be getting unemployment insurance and could rebuild his home on borrowing. But here, and this is the actual situation today, there is no unemployment insurance, and they have these debts that are left.
So we have been meeting on various occasions with the Federal Soil Conservation Service, and it finally dwindled down that the only possible actual contribution, under some subtlety of the law, was to dig the ditches for next year.
We started that program, and, after meeting with that Department again and again, they have a survey in the field now.
We presented the actual loss for that one flood of $1,195,500, being the actual door-to-door survey of the loss for those 1,100 families.
Senator LEHMAX. Who made that survey?
Mr. GURDA. The farmers did. The 900 farmers actually took statistics door to door, and this was presented to Governor Harriman and the Federal Soil Conservation Service.
Since then, as these farmers will testify, at a series of meetings, the Federal Soil Conservation Service came in and said that they could pay 70 percent of the cost of opening up these ditches because it came under the soil-erosion program, if the farmers would contribute 30 percent. So we worked on that-this is August, and if these ditches are going to be cleaned and put into effect, it has to be done now so they can start working for next year's program.
The program was delayed, because the Soil Conservation Service decided they had to have an engineering survey of each one of these ditches, which would be 1,000 miles of ditches. So they put two teams in the field and said they could not go ahead unless they could have many more surveyors to do it.
Then we worked with the Department of Agriculture in New York State, and I just received a telegram this morning from Deputy Com
I missioner James Lyons. We asked what the holdup was, and he said to me over the phone that 2 teams of 10 surveyors each were standing by with the Department of Public Works for the last 10 days, but there was some mixup with the Conservation Service so that they could not call them to do the surveying.
Reply to your request, two survey crews are standing by to report to blackdirt area, Orange County, as soon as requested by Federal Soil Conservation Service. These are experienced crews of the Department of Public Works. That is signed “James G. Lyons, Deputy Commissioner.”
So that these farmers, as of now, some of them taking the word of the Federal Soil Conservation Service that if they did some of this cleaning on their own, hired somebody, they might get repaid, did it.
Then the October flood came in and filled them all over again. Now they are told since they had not been surveyed before they cleaned them, there would be none of the 70-percent payment.
Even with all this effort, gentlemen, the total possible contribution from the Federal Soil Conservation Service would be $50,000 for this whole area for a loss of $1,195,500. I mention this, what we call the tie-in with redtape, only to show whatever present laws are available have not applied in this emergency:
I personally have gone up to Albany 4 or 5 times, and also up to where we met at Lake Oquako, because the State Federal Conservation Service director was there. We were first told some of this would be eliminated, and it was not.
We make this appeal. We have a special problem here, and this flood-control insurance seems like the only real answer. If these people are paid, they can do this work themselves rather than trying to fit in an emergency under some subtleties of law.
We have this special program, and I think it comes under your bill thoroughly, Senator Lehman. It requires coverage of personal property, because when these floods come in on many occasions the crops have already been harvested. They are standing in crates. It comes in quite fast, so that the loss is considerable of onions already harvested. The loss is considerable to supplies which are out in the field. There is damage to the soil. Also, in addition to the thousand miles of ditches that are dug, we have more than 1,200 miles of private roads with bridges which are not covered under any of these emergency programs. For instance, the Department of Public Works sent in crews and said that all these private roads do not come under their program.
Of course when all that is lost, besides having the indebtedness, they have no way of making a living for the rest of that year. There is no insurance of any kind, employment or otherwise.
So that the only real answer, in addition to the request we already have made for the continuation of the flood-control project, is this type of insurance. And it must cover an additional factor, since if the flood should occur in May, there would be this situation, where it actually is not a crop, but is only seed in the ground, fertilizer and labor. Possibly that could be replanted up until June 15. After June 15 it starts germinating, and it is too late to do anything else.
So that we would recommend that the farmers be placed in that bill.
I said this when I heard about your bill, and I say it now—that this would be the greatest thing that ever happened in an area such as this. In spite of all the bills and appropriations, and these gentlemen will show you and we have the New York Times which said the Federal Government allocated a billion dollars for aid—actually, as far as these people are concerned, they are completely forgotten under the present laws.
I would not say this except for the fact that as these gentlemen know we have been devoting many, many days, under every possible law, to try and get some help.
Senator LEHMAN. The Federal Government, of course, under the Department of Agriculture, furnishes crop insurance in about 800 counties of the whole Nation. Is this county included under that?
Mr. GURDA. No, it was not.
Mr. GURDA. I am not familiar with that insurance, but I understand it does not cover situations such as this.
Senator LEHMAN. As I understand it, the losses are on a harvested crop. It is not a failure of the crop. The onions and other vegetables had been harvested and were crated. So that the loss comes not through the failure of the crop, but through the loss of the value of the crop that was harvested, which is personal property-crates and other things of that sort—is that correct?
Mr. GURDA. Well, Senator, it is both. Usually it depends on the time of the year. But much of it is still in the ground, and this year 50 percent was harvested and 50 percent ready to be harvested.
Senator LEHMAN. Was that destroyed ?
Senator LEHMAN. Let me get this thing straight, and then Senator Ives is going to ask some questions.
Senator Ives. I was going to ask similar questions.
Senator LEHMAN. This loss which this farmer has suffered comes from his investment in the growing of the crop, half of which was still in the ground and destroyed—comes from the cost of packing, harvesting half of the crop, and also the cost of the crates, is that correct?
Mr. GURDA. That is correct, Senator. I think the estimate was actually, to plant a crop, $300 per acre. Actually it destroyed it in various stages. Some were already stacked; others were still in the process of being pulled out of the ground. Much of it was still not harvested.
Senator LEHMAN. Have you communicated with the Department of Agriculture with regard to this matter? Did they sit in on the conferences? When I ask whether you have communicated with them,