Did Carter Sell His Peanut Farm When He Became President?

Social media users were back in the business of comparing presidential business practices in spring 2020.

  • Published
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Claim

Jimmy Carter sold his peanut farm before taking office as president in 1977.

Rating

What's True

Carter put his businesses, including his peanut farm, Carter Farms, into a blind trust before taking office.

What's False

It wasn't until after leaving office that Carter officially sold the farm.

Origin

As U.S. President-elect Donald Trump prepared to take office in December 2016, multiple news reports addressed the potential conflicts of interest he would face as he transitioned from a businessman to chief executive. Many critics urged Trump to divest himself of his businesses and cited former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s sale of his peanut farm as an exemplary model of how to head off such potential conflicts:

Screenshot 2016-12-16 at 3.51.28 PM

Screenshot 2016-12-16 at 3.51.05 PM

Screenshot 2016-12-16 at 3.51.14 PM

Screenshot 2016-12-16 at 3.51.22 PM

In May 2020, after an appeals court ruled that a lawsuit could proceed alleging that Trump had violated the constitution by receiving foreign money through his hotels, comparisons between Carter and Trump once again gained traction on social media:

While Carter did place his businesses into a blind trust before he was elected president in 1977, he didn’t actually sell his peanut farm until he left office in 1981. 

On Jan. 5, 1977, Carter released a plan detailing how his assets would be handled when he assumed office. Carter listed eight actions that he would take to avoid conflicts of interest, including transferring Carter’s Warehouse, Carter Farms, and all funds related to those business ventures into a trust:

The transition group has studied existing laws and regulations bearing on conflicts of interest and the regulation of ethics of officials in the executive branch of government. The existing law is extremely strong in prohibiting outside earned income. Governor Carter heavily approves of that law and its policy …

In order to prevent possible financial conflicts of interest while President, Governor Jimmy Carter is taking the following actions:

1. All common stock is being sold, consisting of 100 shares of Rich’s, Inc. and 956 shares of Advanced Investors. A small net loss on this stock is likely.

2. Jimmy Carter’s interest in (a) Carter’s Warehouse and Carter Farms, Inc., and any funds related to them (b) all property except the private home and personal items, and (c) his father’s estate will be transferred to a trust. Income or principal from the trust will be available to Jimmy Carter but only as distributions of cash.

Carter’s business suffered significantly while he served as president, but it wasn’t until he left office in 1981 that the decision was made to sell the family farm:

While he serves as president, Jimmy Carter placed the family farm supply business into the protection of a blind trust before he left for Washington, D.C. in 1977. This trust allowed for a law firm in Atlanta to take full administration of the farm supply business during his years in the White House. The Carters felt that relinquishing the business to someone else’s care would separate them from these affairs and avoid the possibility of their financial holdings resembling any conflict of interest while President Carter was in office. Their personal counsel, Charles Kirbo of the Atlanta law firm, was their financial trustee. Following the election loss in 1981, the Carters were informed by Charles Kirbo that because of three years of drought and several changes in warehouse management, they were over $1 million in debt.

As they struggled to recover from the unexpected financial blow, the solution to their problem became evident. The Carters sold the family business and also began writing books, which helped them recover financially.

In regards to a meme’s claim that Carter was still building houses at the age of 92, that is, for the most part, true. Carter has been building houses with Habitat for Humanity since 1984. At the age of 92, he was still actively participating in the construction of new homes. The above-displayed meme is a few years old, however, as Carter is 95 years old at the time of this writing in May 2020. 

If the text of this meme was altered to give Carter’s current age, it would still be true. In October 2019, shortly after suffering a fall at his home that required stitches, Carter was back on the construction site. A Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project has also been announced in the Dominican Republic for November 2020, but it’s unclear if Carter will travel to the country to take part in the construction:

Since beginning their work with Habitat for Humanity in 1984, President and Mrs. Carter have helped to build, renovate and repair 4,390 homes in 14 countries alongside more than 104,000 volunteers through their annual work project. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has served more than 22 million people around the world.

“We are honored to host the 2020 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in the Dominican Republic,” said Cesarina Fabián, national director of Habitat for Humanity Dominican Republic. “President and Mrs. Carter are shining examples of service. We are so grateful to their commitment to building a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.”

In summary, Carter placed his peanut farm into a blind trust when he took office in 1977. It wasn’t until he left office four years later that the farm was sold. With that in mind, we rate this claim “Mixture.”

  • Published
Sources

Gerstein, Josh.   “Appeals court Greenlights Emoluments Suit Against Trump.”
    Politico.   14 May 2020.

Folley, Aris.   “Jimmy Carter Back to Building Homes for Habitat for Humanity One Day After Fall.”
    The Hill.   7 October 2019.

The New York Times.   “Texts of Carter Statement on Conflicts of Interest and Ethics; Appointees’ Guidelines.”
    5 January 1977.

Buchanan, Larry.   “The Array of Conflicts of Interest Facing the Trump Presidency.”
    The New York Times.   14 December 2016.