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A path to the consuming public

A path to the consuming public
“Some thought must be given to a market that comes largely from outside the United States, and as the Pacific coast is our logical export market, we are vitally interested in having the export rate maintained.” – W.L. Stockton

In 1922, certain railroad points in western Montana began offering a differential rate on shipping charges. Wheat intended for export was transported seven cents below the domestic rate. But in early 1925, the railroad announced this rate would be discontinued. The railways contested the lower rate was being misused to ship wheat to the coast to be milled and distributed for domestic consumption. 

W.L. Stockton, a wheat farmer from Clarkston, Mont., served as both the Montana Farm Bureau President and Montana Wheat Export Rate Association president. He immediately protested the idea and moved to action. With log books, logic, testimonies from millers and rate payment proof, he led the charge to prove the export rate was not being abused, and further, was vital to the success of Montana’s wheat farmers. 

A hearing was scheduled for mid-July. Farmers prepared to protest. Stockton was optimistic about the hearing and believed it would rule in their favor. 

“Every farmer, every wheat dealer in the state, is for the export rate. There is no reason why it should not be retained, there is no reason why the farmers of the state should not be victorious in the coming hearing before the interstate commerce commission. Not only have we the support of every farmer in the state, but the railroad has withdrawn and are leaving the question to the interstate commerce commission. And we have the whole hearted support of the west coast commercial clubs, who are all anxious that our Montana wheat, which is the best in the land, should continue westward.”

The hearing was held by Examiner Jewell of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Witnesses for the Pacific Coast Millers were present and denied that any misuse of the rate had been brought about. They also declared that because of Montana’s quality of wheat, it was essential for trade and that the export rate must be maintained to hold and develop oriental trade. 

“Ours is a state which is handicapped in our relation to the consuming centers. The export rate results in procuring a buyer for Montana’s products and developments of a wider demand for our superior wheat.” – Alfred Atkinson, Montana State College president.

In order to raise wheat prices to a profitable level, the farmers needed access to every possible market, and they needed to be competitive against their northern neighbor. At the time, Canadian freight rates offered a 10 cent discount for grains bound for export markets. 

The July hearing went on all day, with testimony and strong arguments from millers, exporters, university leaders and farmers. Unfortunately, the hearing had to end before any conclusion was came to due to the fact the witnesses who travelled to the meeting by train needed to start their journey back home. After several more meetings, hearings and discussions, the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railways offered to extend the current rate through the end of November to carry out that season’s grain shipping before considering a rate change. 

It was a small victory, but a step in the right direction in the young organization's fight for the farmers of Montana. 

FOLLOW OUR HISTORY SO FAR:

RESOURCES:

  • The Billings Gazette, Apr. 9, 1925, page 2: “Protest Grain Rate Proposal”
  • Great Falls Tribune, May. 16, 1925, page 6: “Montana Units Oppose Plans to Annual Wheat Export Rate”
  • Great Falls Tribune, Jul. 7, 1925, page 7: “Rail Board Will Continue Wheat Rate, Stockton Says”
  • Great Falls Tribune, May. 22, 1925, page 4: “Rate Hearing May Be Held in Montana”
  • The Billings Gazette, Jul. 19, 1925, page 1: “Millers Say Export Rate Helps State”
  • The Anaconda Standard, Jul. 19, 1925, page 2: “Millers of Coast for Export Rate”
  • Great Falls Tribune, May. 16, 1925, page 6: “Montana Units Oppose Plans to Annual Wheat Export Rate”
  • The Butte Miner, Aug. 14, 1925, page 1: “Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway has agreed to extend present rate on export wheat”