Food Will Win the War


By CLAUDE R. WICKARD, Secretary of Agriculture

Statement made before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, February 4, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 349-352.

YOU are probably familiar with the slogan, "Food Will Win the War." We who are working on the food front are under no illusion that food alone will do the job. Of course it will take men with guns, planes, tanks and ships, too. But I think I can say quite conservatively that food—American food—has already so influenced the course of the war that we are years nearer to final victory today than we would have been if we had not used it very deliberately as a weapon of war. The food which we have shipped under Lend-Lease has been a major factor in keepingthe British Isles in the war. Obviously, with them out, we would be facing the prospect of an appallingly long and costly struggle.

Right now we have an opportunity to strike another decisive blow with food. That is in Russia. The real meaning of our "Food Will Win the War," slogan is clearly illustrated by this Russian situation. It is men—Russian men—who are winning the all-important battles there. But if the supplies of American food which are going to those men, fraction though it is of the total supply, were to be cut off tomorrow, they would almost surely have to stop fighting.

Those are outstanding instances of the effectiveness of Lend-Lease food as a weapon. Those are results which can be measured in the lives of American soldiers. The strategy in which our food has played its part has proven successful. If it had been otherwise—if the battles to which our food has gone had been lost instead of won—I would still say to you that we should go on sending it just as long as we had allies whom it would keep in the fight. When it is so obviously contributing to victories, I do not think there is really much need for me to emphasize the importance of continuing to send it.

However, I do want to lay before you, as testimony in favor of extension of the Lend-Lease Act, some of the facts about our food operations since the Act was passed and about the possibilities for continuing operations as we now see them.

You are probably aware that for the first year and a half after the beginning of the Lend-Lease program in March, 1941, Great Britain was the principal recipient of Lend-Lease aid in foodstuffs. I do not think it is too much to say that American fanners share with the brave Britons themselves the credit for the victory which their present solid strength represents. Our farmers were already producing food in record quantities, and though we had to have time to build up the industrial machinery we needed for the production of the other tools of war, we could and did send the food which made it possible for the Britons to hold out. For many months, while our own industrial plants were getting geared up, it was British industry, powered by men and women who were eating American food, which did the main job of war production. That British production is still going on, adding its war materials to our rapidly mounting totals for the joint pool which will overwhelm the Axis. Our food is helping to make that possible.

Of course we have not fed Great Britain, in any total sense. We have not even been the major source of her food supply. What we have done is to supplement her home-produced supplies and her supplies from other sources to an extent which has made it possible for her workers and her soldiers to be adequately—if not very interestingly—fed.

You know that in normal times Great Britain had to import about two-thirds of her food. Since the beginning of the war, she has greatly expanded her own agricultural production, increasing cropped acreage from about 13 million acres to more than 18 million. Even so, it is utterly impossible for her to raise anywhere near enough on her heavily populated islands to feed all her people. She is still dependent on outside sources for nearly half of her foodstuffs. Her European sources of supply are now in the hand of the Nazis. If she is to continue to live and fight, she must look to us in the Western Hemisphere for food. She is drawing heavily on Canada and on South America. Our contribution to her total supply is of the utmost importance, but statistically it was less than fifteen percent of her food imports in 1942—and, of course, a much smaller percent of her total supply.

The foods which we have sent to the British have been the ones which supplement those they raise at home and those they can get elsewhere for properly balanced nutritional requirements; They have been able to increase greatly the production of the foods which take heavy shipping space—wheat, potatoes, green vegetables. Canada has been able to supply most of the additional wheat that they need, beyond their own production. But even though they have imported meat in large quantities from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South America, they have needed—and still need—animal protein. It is in this field that we have been of the greatest help. The British in 1942 received about twenty percent of their edible fats from us, about 10 percent of their meat (practically all in the form of pork), and about twenty percent of their other protein foods, such as cheese, milk and eggs. Most of the milk and eggs of course, went in concentrated form—evaporated or dehydrated. By contrast, the cereals which we sent made up only about one percent of their total supply.

With the help of this American food, and with the further help of a very complete food control system, it is believed that many Britons actually eat better today, from a nutritional standpoint, than they did before the war. On the other hand, of course, many who ate everything they wanted before the war have been sharply reduced both in quantity and in freedom of choice. In general, the foods which we are sending to the British are the ones which have had to be restricted the most—meat, eggs, and other protein foods. In the meantime, their consumption of bread, potatoes, and fresh vegetables has been sharply increased.

In recent months we have been sending to Britain less than is required to keep her carefully-balanced food program operating on a full replacement basis. There have been two reasons for this: (1) increased Russian requirements, and (2) a short supply situation in this country. Consequently, the British have had to dip more deeply into their essential reserves. It is obvious that they cannot continue this indefinitely.

Before leaving the subject of our Lend-Lease aid to the British, I would like to point out that while the great bulk of the foodstuffs which we have sent has gone to the British Isles, about ten percent has been shipped directly to British fighting forces in other parts of the world. Much of the food that has gone to the British Isles has also been used for the armed forces, both at home and abroad.

I want to point out, also, that this has been—and is—a two-way proposition. The strategy under which we are operating, as you know, is one of mutual help. In men, in machinery of war, and in food, the United Nations are, in effect, pooling their resources so that the resources of each may be used to the best advantage in the common struggle. Thus while we are sending food to the British, the Russians and others of our allies, we are also receiving food when that is sound strategy. Our army in Britain, for instance, is not only serviced by the British, without payment, insofar as its quarters, transportation and hospitalization are concerned, but it is also getting considerable quantities of food as reciprocal aid. All its bread is made from British flour, and recent figures show that the British have supplied 101,678,080 pounds of flour to our troops. Other food commodities supplied have included 40,960,640 pounds of potatoes, 25,229,120 pounds of other fruits and vegetables, 25,858,560 pounds of marmalade and jam, and 55,332,480 pounds of sugar.

Our soldiers in Australia and New Zealand get a much larger share of their food by reciprocal aid—most of it, in fact, as those countries are heavy producers of foodstuffs and the use of their food by our troops saves us much valuable shipping. Even though they do produce heavily, however, the drain which this Lend-Lease-in-reverse has put upon their supplies has been much more severe than anything we have yet felt in this country. In Australia, civilians have gonealmost entirely without potatoes for months in order to feed our soldiers. With other Allied troops, we have taken practically all of their pork and canned meats, vegetables and citrus fruits. The New Zealanders have created severe civilian shortages of eggs, milk, potatoes, flour, fresh fruit and cereals to feed the United States troops. Figures recently compiled show some of the foodstuffs which Australia has supplied our armed forces, by reciprocal aid: 15,370,027 pounds of beef and veal; 3,247,000 pounds of lamb and mutton; 8,310,628 pounds of pork, ham and bacon; 20,030,992 pounds of potatoes; 25,337,328 pounds of other fruits and vegetables; 1,800,000 dozen eggs; 3,944,777 pounds of butter; 1,366,029 gallons of milk. Some of the totals for New Zealand are: 10,279,000 pounds of beef; 1,721,000 pounds of mutton; 4,054,000 pounds of bacon, ham and pork; 4,787,000 pounds of potatoes; 1,407,000 dozen eggs; 2,032,000 pounds of butter; and 3,320,000 pounds of sugar. The beef and veal which Australia and New Zealand together supplied to our forces add up to a higher total than all beef and veal which we have shipped under Lend-Lease.

It seems to me the plainest kind of common sense to operate in this way, sending food to these of our fighting allies who need it, drawing food from others of our fighting allies who are in a position to supply it.

Russia, of course, comes in the first category. I do not need to say anything to you about what Russia is doing in this war. But to me it is highly significant that in the last few months our shipments of food to Russia have greatly increased. In December, for the first time, we shipped more to Russia than to Great Britain. I submit to you that that food, along with the other war materials that we have been sending to the Russians, has paid magnificent dividend. Its importance is indicated by the fact that the Russians are giving food top priority in shipping at this time.

In normal times, the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Crimea accounted for two-thirds of Russia's agricultural production. For the past year, Russia has obtained no production from these areas. It has been as though the United States were suddenly to lose the Middle West. Many of the people of these over-run areas have moved out to the Urals, which were never self-supporting areas as far as food is concerned. To carry the comparison on, it is as if much of our Mid-Western population should move into the Rockies. It not only deprives the whole country of the production on which it had formerly depended, but creates a new problem of feeding a refugee population in a part of the country which was already short of many supplies.

Even so, Russia has not asked us for any appreciable help in feeding her civilian population. Only the merest driblets of Lend-Lease food have gone for that purpose. Practically all the food that we send goes right to the soldiers of the Red Army. You can imagine what a tremendous task it is to keep that great army fed, with production behind the lines cut as it has been. Civilian rations have been cut to the bone. Black bread is the mainstay, and only the heaviest workers get more than a pound of it a day. Meat is no longer thought of as a regular food, but as an occasional treat. Cereal, fats and sugar are portioned out, depending on the sort of work a civilian is doing, at the minimum rates necessary for sustenance. All the food that can thus be conserved is sent to the army. Perhaps it would be enough to keep the army fed. But that army needs more than bare minimum feeding. It needs that extra amount of food which will give it the energy to fight in sub-zero weather. That is what we are sending to it.

The foods which we have sent to Russia have been energy foods, fighting foods. Meat and animal fats have accounted for about thirty percent of the total; wheat and flour about

25 percent; sugar about 17 percent; dried beans, peas, rice and cereals, about 12 percent; vegetable oils about 6 percent; dairy products about 5 percent.

Fats, of course, are of the utmost importance to the Russians and a large proportion of our meat shipments has been in fatbacks. We have also shipped large quantities of lard which the Russians use both on bread and in their soups—the two main elements of the Russian diet. We have recently shipped some butter so that as an occasional boost to morale and as a contribution to staying quality in the fight, a Russian soldier may have a little butter instead of lard on his black bread. The actual amount shipped, through December 31, 1942, was 7,772 long tons, which represented only .74 percent of our total butter production. It amounts to a little more than twice as much butter as our soldiers were given by the Australians and New Zealanders during the same period. This year, the Russians hope to get about 5 percent of our butter production. I certainly hope we shall be able to send it to them.

I want to tell you frankly that from now on we are going to feel the pinch more than we have in the past, as we go on sending food to our allies. You know that our farmers produced record crops in 1942. I am sure that they will make every effort to meet the still higher goals set for 1943, despite the tremendous difficulties which beset them in getting manpower and equipment. But there is a limit beyond which we cannot go. Meantime the demands, in addition to Lend-Lease, have increased to such a point that we would probably be short of some commodities even if we sent none to our allies. Last year about 7 percent of our total food production went to our own armed forces. This was substantially more than we shipped under Lend-Lease. At the same time, our civilian population, with greatly increased purchasing power, was consuming more than it had ever done before except in the year 1941. This year the requirements for our armed forces will be still greater and there will be a large increase in Lend-Lease shipments. Obviously, the civilian population will be even less able than it was in 1942 to get all the foods that it would like to buy and that it would be able to buy.

I can assure you, however, that there will be enough food for our civilians to have nutritious diets. That may be quite a different thing than what many civilians would like to eat. But I am confident that the American people will make whatever adjustments may be required, and do it gladly in the realization that it is one way to help hasten the day of victory. They know that every added day of war will take the lives of American soldiers. And as between the life of an American soldier and an extra dab of butter on the plate, no American will have any question as to his choice.

We shall so apportion supplies among the various groups which need food—the armed forces, the civilian population and our allies—that the supplies available will go where they can best serve the war effort. Obviously, that means that we must keep enough at home to keep our home front strong. I can pledge to you that I shall consider that a fundamental obligation of the Secretary of Agriculture. We shall also make every effort to see to it that the food that is kept at home is so managed that each American will be able to get his fair share, and that the fair share is properly balanced to afford him as good a diet nutritionally as he requires, and, in many cases, better than he has had in the past.

Our allies are just as mindful as we are that we must look out for our own people. They have been extraordinarily reasonable in adjusting their requests to our supply situation. For instance, we have shipped hardly any beef to our allies, because the requirements of our own armed forces for beef have been so large that to do so would have been to create an even more seriously short supply situation, domestically, than we have been experiencing. Instead, our allies have been glad to take pork, which we could better afford to supply, even though their appetites, like ours, are strongly inclined to beef. Of our total supply of beef, we actually shipped under Lend-Lease last year only a fraction of one percent. We shipped 10 percent of our pork, but in terms of all meats only about 5 percent of our total supplies. We shipped no veal, and only a fraction of one percent of our lamb or mutton.

During the past year we shipped 3.4 percent of our milk products, the greatest part of our export being in dehydrated milk and cheese—23.1 percent of our cheese, 23 percent of our dried skim milk, and 6.1 percent of our dried whole milk. Included in these milk exports also was 7.2 percent of our condensed and evaporated milk, but as I have already pointed out, only about .74 percent of our butter, for the little bit of butter which we sent to Russia is all that we have sent under Lend-Lease—none to Britain and none to any other countries. Next to dairy products, the biggest exports in terms of percentages of our total supply, were fats and oils (excluding butter) of which we sent 13.2 percent; eggs, of which we sent 10 percent, almost all of them dehydrated; and fish, frozen and canned, of which we sent 7.1 percent. It is noteworthy, I think, that we only shipped 1.7 percent of our canned fruits and juices, and less than 1 percent of our canned vegetables. Of course, our own armed forces required large amounts of these canned commodities.

Altogether, since March 1941, we have delivered for shipment to our Allies about four million long tons of foodstuffs, at a cost of about a billion and a quarter dollars. I doubt if any food has ever been better utilized. We can and must go on utilizing it as well, and better. I would like to be on record, therefore, as strongly favoring the extension of the Lend-Lease Act.