The Food Problem
MEASURES NEEDED TO MEET OUR NEEDS
By PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Message to Congress, November 1, 1943
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 66-75.
(needs pages 72-73.)
FOOD is as important as any other weapon in the successful prosecution of the war. It will be equally important in rehabilitation and relief in the liberated areas, and in the shaping of the peace that is to come.
Objectives of Our Food Program
The first major objective of our food program is to raise in the most efficient manner enough food and the right kinds of foods to meet our needs. That includes: First, the needs of our armed forces; second, the needs of our civilians at home; and third, the amount required for our shipments abroad for the essential needs of our fighting allies.
The second major objective is to see that the food for our civilians at home is divided as fairly as possible among all of the people in all sections of the country, and that it is obtainable at reasonable prices.
I have not been content merely with a program for 1944 crops. I am thinking also about the balance of this year, and about the earlier months of 1944 before the crops are harvested. While the question of production for 1944 is an essential one, we must not lose sight of the necessity for keeping the prices of our present food supply at reasonable levels. We must see to it not only that the prices of food do not go up any farther, but that the prices of those foods which have gotten out of line are actually reduced.
Cites Two Major Objectives
One of the great difficulties is that the steps necessary to attain these two major objectives sometimes become inconsistent with each other. For example, one of the inducements for increased production of food by farmers is to see that they get an adequate price for their products. Such a price is necessary in order to get production.
However, if these prices are too high the result will be that by the time the food reaches the grocery store or butcher shop the housewife will have to pay too high a price for it. This in turn may force a rise in wages and an increase in the prices which farmers have to pay for what they buy.
On the other hand, if the butcher shop or grocery store gets an insufficient price from the consumer for meat or groceries, then the farmer in turn will get too low a price to encourage him to raise as much food as we need. In both of these cases our production and price objectives are not likely to be achieved unless the Government assists with equalization payments or other aid.
The efforts of this Administration have consistently been directed at this double target of raising as much food as possible without placing too great a burden on the American housewife in her efforts to feed her family.
In the main our efforts have been successful. In the case of some foods, however, the objectives have not yet been attained. New measures are being taken in an effort to attain them.
Food Production, 1943
The increase of food production during this war has been far greater than the comparable increase in production during the last war. If, for example, we take the 1935-39 average as the base of 100, the production in 1939 was 106, in 1942 it was 126, and in 1943 it will be 132. If we use the same base of 100, the production in 1914 was 81, in 1918 it was 90, and in 1919 it was also 90.
In other words, by the fourth year of this war—1942—our food production had increased more than twice as much as it did in the same period of the last war.
The 1942 crop was the largest in the history of the United States. But food production for the current year 1943, in spite of less favorable weather, will exceed the 1942 production.
Crops will be slightly lower this year than in 1942; but livestock will be so much higher than in 1942 that the total of all food is expected to exceed the 1942 record output by about 5 per cent. This will mean that our total farmproduction—crops and livestock—will be more than 30 per cent larger than the average annual production for the five years preceding the outbreak of the war in 1939.
Some Figures Offered
Most of us do not realize how much food actually is being raised in 1943. Here are some illustrative figures:
Fifty-five billion quarts of milk, an increase of 14 per cent over the 1935-1939 average.
Ten billion pounds of beef and veal (dressed weight), an increase of 27 per cent.
One billion pounds of lamb and mutton (dressed weight), an increase of 13 per cent.
Sixty billion eggs (including non-farm), an increase of 50 per cent.
Four billion pounds of chicken (dressed weight), an increase of 63 per cent.
Thirteen billion pounds of pork (dressed weight), an increase of 78 per cent.
Three billion pounds of lard, an increase of 73 per cent.
Three billion pounds of peanuts, an increase of 125 per cent.
This record was established in the face of three major handicaps: shortage of manpower, shortage of farm machinery, and shortage of fertilizer. This record production for 1943 is an amazing tribute to the patriotism, resourcefulness and ability of the American farmer.
Victory Gardners Added
Much credit is also due to the patriotic men and women who spent so much time and energy in planting twenty million Victory gardens in the United States, and helped to meet the food requirements. It is estimated that about eight million tons of food were produced in 1943 in these Victory gardens.
The increase in our farm output since Pearl Harbor has been the largest of any similar period in history. It called for hard work, ingenuity, cooperation and teamwork on the part of farmers, processors and distributors, as well as all the State and Federal officials concerned with the food problem. They all deserve the thanks of the American people.
Due to the shortage of regular farm labor, heroic and successful efforts have been made to obtain help from the adult residents of villages and cities—both men and women —on a part-time as well as a full-time basis. High-school boys and girls have also been enrolled to help in critical areas during the vacation period and after school hours. They too deserve our thanks.
The record for 1943 in getting additional farm help in places where it was needed is very impressive. For example, during May, June, July and August of this year 900,000 workers registered for farm work. Forty-eight thousand five hundred workers were brought in this year from Mexico, 4,700 from the Bahamas, and 8,800 from Jamaica. This additional help was used on farms in shortage areas all over the United States. Altogether, 1,750,000 placements on farms were made.
War Prisoners Also Used
We have also made use of prisoners of war for the raising and harvesting of crops. Essential farm labor has been deferred from the draft. Where emergencies have developed, the Army has assigned soldiers to assist in saving crops that otherwise would be lost.
One of the great difficulties—the shortage of farm machinery and of spare parts—developed, of course, because of the imperative need for steel for the war program. There was only a fixed amount of steel available, and it had to be divided as efficiently as possible among the critical needs for war—ships, big guns and small weapons, tanks, new war factories and new additions to war factories, railroad cars, and a number of other vital products. It was necessary to use our best judgment in determining just where we should use the available supply of steel.
The allotment of steel for farm machinery for use in 1944 has been increased by doubling the amount available for use this year. Furthermore, no limit has been placed on the production of repair parts.
This new farm equipment, however, while it will be available for the 1944 production, was not available for 1943. However, the farmers kept their own machinery in better order. They clubbed together in the making of repairs. They joined hands in the use of farm machinery by more than one farm family. The ingenious and resourceful farmers of America, by this cooperative use of machinery, were able to turn out this record crop of 1943.
Demands on Our Food Supply
Even with this all-time high food production for 1943 there were still shortages in certain parts of the country in our food supply. This was not due to lack of production but rather to the extraordinary demands for food—demands never before made in history.
The increased demands for food came from three principal sources. The largest increase in demand has come from our own civilians here at home. Many of our workers in war factories, in the mines, on the farms and in other essential pursuits are eating more and better food than they ate before the war began. Many of them for the first time are approaching an adequate diet—so essential to well-being of our people and to maximum war production.
Even after making allowances for the rise in the cost of food since 1939, the average American family is not only spending more for food but eating more food than before the outbreak of the war. This has been one of the predominant factors in the greatly increased demand on our food supply.
The second increased demand for food has come from our 9,000.000 soldiers, sailors and marines—who had, and, of course, always will have—first call on all articles of food. These service men naturally consume much more food in the Army and Navy—and they are getting better food on the average—than they did in civilian life.
The third great demand was for our lend-lease shipments of food to our allies.
There has been a lot of loose talk about impending "meat famine" and "meat shortages" for the coming winter.
During the October-March period, this winter's estimated total meat production, excluding poultry, will amount to 14.4 billion pounds, dressed weight, as compared with 12.5 billion pounds during the same period last year, and 11.4 billion pounds two years ago. As a matter of fact, this winter's estimated meat production will be by far the largest on record.
Poultry Production Up
Estimated poultry production during the October-March period this winter will amount to 2.3 billion pounds, as compared with 1.9 billion pounds last winter and 1.7 billion pounds two years ago. The production of poultry has increased about 60 per cent since 1939.
During the next six months we will produce an estimated 2.2 billion dozens of eggs, as compared with 2.1 billion dozens a year ago and 1.8 billion dozens two years ago. Egg production has increased about 40 per cent since 1939.
Also, even though our animal numbers will be at an all-time high this winter, the 1943-44 total supply of feed grains will, except for last year, be the largest supply on record and approximately 20 per cent above the 1937-1941 average. On a per animal basis, the feed supply will not be as large as in the last several years, but it will be about equal to the average of the ten years ending in 1932.
From the standpoint both of increased production and of price control the food effort in this war is a far greater success than that of the first World War. Facts bear out this statement, but I suppose that facts are not going to deter those who want to create dissatisfaction or those who spread scares such as "food shortage" and "meat famine."
Food Production, 1944
Our food plans for the future are, of course, predicated on the assumption that we must not only continue our shipments overseas but actually increase them. The war is by no means won, and the global effort must be continued and accelerated. The requirements for our armed forces will be increased, not only because they will have a larger number of men and women than in 1943, but because more of them will be stationed in distant parts of the world.
The average soldier or sailor eats approximately five and one-quarter pounds of food per day—almost half as much again as the average civilian, who eats only three and three-quarter pounds per day. The greater the number of men in the armed forces the larger are the demands on our food supply.
In the last war we fed 4,000,000 people in uniform—largely concentrated in the United States and in France. In this war by the end of 1943 we will have almost 11,000,000 men in uniform, and they will be scattered in all parts of the world. At the beginning of this year our armed forces totaled about 7,000,000; at the end of this year the estimated strength will be 50 per cent higher.
That is the reason why in 1942 approximately only 7 1/2 per cent of our food production was allotted to our armed forces whereas in 1943 the figure will be about 14 per cent. As our Army grows, as more men are sent overseas, larger food reserves will have to be accumulated and civilian belts will have to be tightened. Furthermore, our armed forces require more of the so-called "protective" foods, such as meats, fats and oils, milk and canned goods—foods which are, therefore bound to run short for the increased civilian demands.
Our armed forces are now eating in each month 328,000,000 pounds of meat, 34,000,000 dozens of eggs, 28.000,000 pounds of butter, 221,000,000 pounds of potatoes—and staggering amounts of other foodstuffs. And the quality of this food is the best that we can give them.
Says Allies Will Need More
The armed forces of our allies will also increase in 1944 and they will have to receive food assistance from us. The amount of food going to Lend-Lease is gradually increasing. In 1941 it was 2 per cent of our food production; in 1942 approximately 6 per cent. This year, because? of increasing Russian shortages and other needs, it will probably reach 10 per cent.
In 1941 and 1942 England was the largest recipient of Lend-Lease food, but owing to the German invasion of the Ukraine in 1942 more food has had to be sent since then to the Soviet Union. In fact, Russia, in the first six months of 1943, received one-third of all our Lend-Lease food shipments.
All these war uses will require about one-fourth of our total food supply for the year beginning Oct. 1, 1943, leaving about three-fourths for our civilian population. This three-fourths, however, because of our increased production will amount approximately to as much, per capita, as was used during the 1935-39 period.
I am sure that the American people realize that every pound of food which we send to our fighting Allies is helping our own soldiers in their battles and is speeding the day when all our fighting men and women will come home.
The food that is sent to Russia is almost all for the use of the Russian army.
Although British farmers, by strenuous efforts, have succeeded in increasing their production from 40 per cent of Britain's needs to 60 per cent, she still has to rely upon imports in order to avoid starvation. American food provides only 10 per cent of the entire British food supply—and yet it has been a great help in feeding Montgomery's army and the RAF and in sustaining the millions of workers in vital British factories, shipyards and mines. I think it is safe to say that England could not have continued in the war without the help she received in American and Canadian food.
Much Sent to Russia
When Russia was invaded 40 per cent of her usual food production was lost. Emergency food shipments were sent from Great Britain and the Middle East, hut we also had to step up our own shipments. I am sure that no one will disagree with the wisdom—to say nothing of the need and obligation—of sustaining the gallant Russian fighters with American food.
The fact is that with all our shipments, civilian diets in England and in Russia—particularly in Russia—are far below our worst shortage periods. In fact, in Russia, food for civilians has been cut to the barest minimum.
Through Lend-Lease the United States seeks to put a share of its food resources to the most effective use against the enemy. Conversely, through reverse Lend-Lease the striking power of our own armed forces abroad has been greatly augmented by substantial quantities of food provided by our Allies. The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have provided the largest amount of food, but we have also received food under reverse Lend-Lease from other parts of the British Empire and are receiving increasing quantities of foodstuffs from the French in North Africa.
Some illustrative figures may indicate the importance to our war effort and to our national economy of the food which we obtain from our Allies as reverse Lend-Lease aid without payment.
Although we did not start receiving food under reverse Lend-Lease from Australia and New Zealand until a year or more after our Lend-Lease program started, the amounts received—in comparison to what we have Lend-Leased—are relatively large.
Thus, for example, through August of this year, the United States has received from Australia and New Zealand more than 90.000,000 pounds of beef and veal, compared to a total of 99,000,000 pounds of beef and veal which the United States has provided under outgoing lend-lease to all lend-lease countries combined* In July and August, 1943, Australia and New Zealand supplied us roughly the same amount of beef and veal under reverse lend-lease as we lend-leased to all countries.
We have received from Australia and New Zealand alone 55 per cent of the amount of butter and 16 per cent of the amount of lamb and mutton which we have exported under lend-lease to all countries.
During the year 1943 the United Kingdom is providing under reverse lend-lease substantial quantities of many food-stuffs—such as flour, bread, potatoes, sugar, vegetables, coffee, and cocoa—in order to supplement the food our forces receive from the United States. The food-stuffs received from the United Kingdom under reverse lendlease save valuable shipping space and include such commodities as fresh vegetables which cannot readily be shipped from the United States.
The United States is supplying much of the pork that England consumes. The delivery of beef to our Army from Ithe southern dominions and the shipment of pork to England from the United States is a good example of sharing among the United Nations, on the basis of what each has to contribute to total war. Most of the food for the American armed forces in the South and Southwest Pacific comes from the land and factories of that area. In order to provide for our troops, Australia and New Zealand have expanded their food production and processing facilities. Despite this, however, the large food requirements of our forces have caused shortages of many foods for the Australians and New Zealanders. Nevertheless, these two countries continue to supply our food requirements as reverse Lend-Lease without payment by us.
Must Aid Freed Lands, He Says
A certain small percentage of food will have to be used as the United Nations liberate presently occupied countries, until such time as the populations of these countries can have a chance to become self-supporting.
For example, a very small percentage of our food now goes to feed the liberated people of North Africa and Sicily and Italy. This includes only the bare necessities of life. Feeding people in this area is not only a military necessity; it provides strength for the hard work that has to be done by them in order to produce new supplies of food and other goods.
Already the people of French Africa, with some assistance from us in expanding their agricultural production, have been able to produce a sufficiently good harvest in 1943 so that they can now even supply food to our forces there. This not only saves shipping but augments our own food supply.
The people of French Africa, without payment, and under reverse Lend-Lease arrangements have also supplied the Allied forces with substantial quantities of flour for use in the Italian campaign. This, too, has helped our food, as well as our shipping situation.
Agreements have just been concluded to provide the United Nations with more than 100,000 tons of fruit and vegetables. The 1944 harvests in North Africa, aided by American agricultural supplies and a year of peaceful cultivation, should ease the strain on the food supply of the United States still further. In North Africa, we and the other United Nations, have truly beaten our swords into plowshares.
Some Dividends Are Seen
Food supplies to the liberated peoples also pay other dividends. It prevents epidemics. It is a potent psychological and morale weapon for those starving people whose countries are still overrun by the Axis. While starvation has been the weapon used by the Axis resulting in disease, misery and death, the United Natrons are using food as one of their most potent weapons to shorten the war and win a lasting peace.
The War Food Administration has accordingly raised its sights for 1944. A preliminary calculation calls for the planting of 380.000,000 acres of crops, as compared with 364.000,000 acres in 1943. That will be the largest farm planting in history and should result in the breaking of food production records for the eighth successive year.
The War Food Administration with my approval, has requested the Congress to extend the life of the Commodity Credit Corporation and to furnish additional funds. I regard this as vital to the war food program. It will also enable us to carry out our pledge to the farmers, that we will assure them against a price collapse for the two years following the war.
Of course, the goals set by the War Food Administration will be meaningless unless the farmers themselves are willing to adopt them as their own goals, and are able to fulfill them. Therefore, the War Food Administration is discussing the national needs with the State War Board of each State, and with representative farmer groups and leaders and public officials in each State interested in agriculture. In this way determination will be made by consultation with the farmers themselves and with Federal and State officials as to what parts of the national requirements can be contributed by each State.
To Consult With Farmers
The county war boards and local committees of farmers will also be consulted as to how the State quotas should be apportioned among the various counties of the respective States.
The State and local people will also be consulted about the extent of Government support prices and Government loans and Government purchases that will be necessary to attain the goals of production set. In other words, the farm program of production and prices for 1944 is going to be formulated finally, only after consultation with the farmers of the nation and those who are interested in farming. Upon the basis of this collective judgment, the final goals for the year's production will be formulated well in advance of the production season, so that each fanner may know what to count upon.
In order to obtain the great production level of 1943, it was necessary to assure the farmers that their return would be sufficiently high to encourage them to plant and at the same time it was necessary to insure the consumer against prices for food which would be too high for him to purchase. This could be done only with the use of Government funds, and in order to bring about the proposed increased production for 1944 it will be necessary to use additional Government funds.
AH of the restrictions on acreage which were imposed by the AAA program in former years have been removed for 1944, as they were for 1943 with few exceptions. Only tobacco marketing quotas will be maintained—in order to encourage tobacco farmers to put more of their land into food products.
There are some people who for political reasons now maintain that these early acreage restrictions which were put into effect in 1933 and subsequent years are partially responsible for the present shortage. Of course, the facts are otherwise.
When these restrictions were imposed the farmers' income had dwindled away to practically nothing; they were unable to get decent prices for their crops because they raised so much more than people were able to buy, and also because the foreign market for their products had practically disappeared. As a result of this glut, this stifling excess of supply over demand, farm prices faded away to almost nothing; and it was necessary to restrict production by taking inferior land out of production in order to save agriculture from the complete bankruptcy which was threatening it in 1932.
The farmers themselves voted to do this, because of conditions which consumers well understood and appreciated, for they knew that that was the only road to salvation for agriculture and for the country as a whole.
Since the present war began, however, and the demand for food has outstripped the supply, these restrictions have been lifted and there are now no limitations on the production of food.
Another fact which is often overlooked by the critics of our acreage adjustment program is that more acres were put into soil-improving crops and legumes and that many conservation practices were instituted—such as terracing, cover cropping and contour farming—which actually improved the soil so much that although less acreage was in production, more food per acre was produced. In fact, the great improvement in our soil which resulted from our agricultural programs has made possible the record food production of recent years.
Warns of Past Blunders
In planting for 1944, we are determined not to repeat the blunder of the First World War—plowing, and planting crops without regard to the fitness of the land, and without regard to proper soil conservation. The "dust bowl" which was created by these practices has caused too much sorrow and suffering and financial loss in recent years to let us forget the lesson.
The increased production goals for 1944 involve not only an increase in the total food production but also shifting production from one kind of food to other kinds which are more necessary. The plan calls for the right amount of the right things in the right places—and the objective will be to stretch our food supply as far as possible. Accordingly, the largest increases in production will be for those crops which furnish food for direct human consumption.
Plans are also under way to increase our food supply by the development and procurement of food abroad. I have already mentioned how our assistance in developing food production in North Africa has made and will make available food for our armed forces abroad under reverse lend-lease. Other sources of foreign food may be available to us. The functions of handling foreign food development are being centralized in the Foreign Economic Administration so that our food supply can be augmented in the most effective way.
Support Prices and Equalization Payments
In order to induce farmers to increase production to these new goals, and at the same time keep the cost of food down, it will be necessary to increase the amount of Government funds which were used for these purposes in 1943.
Government funds have been used in various' different ways in order to see that the farmer got a fair price for his product—a price high enough to encourage him to raise more crops—without raising the price to the consumer. All of these administrative methods of guaranteeing a minimum price to the farmer for his products—whether they take the form of nonrecourse loans or guaranteed prices, or subsidy payments, or actual purchase and resale-are generally called price supports, and are included in the price-support programs.
The purpose of the price-support program is primarily to encourage the farmer to grow a crop with the assurance that, no matter what happens, he is going to get a certain definite return for it. If the price which the ultimate consumer pays as fixed by the price regulations is less than an amount which will pay the farmer this return, then the Government absorbs the loss and sees to it that the fanner gets what was guaranteed to him.
The farmer also enjoys this guarantee when prices in the market fall below the support level. If the price which the consumer has to pay as fixed by the price regulations is high enough to pay the farmer his support price, then, of course, there is no loss to the government.
In certain commodities the War Food Administration knows in advance that it will have to bear part of the cost. Nevertheless, the charge will be a necessary part of the program to produce enough food without having the consumer pay too much for it.
Opposes Loss to Farmers
We can not and should not expect the farmers of the nation to increase their production all over the United States if they face the definite risk of loss by reason of such production. We do not expect industrial war plants to take such risks and there is no reason why the farmers
I am attaching herewith a statement of the commodities for which Commodity Credit Corporation support price were in effect during 1943 (Schedule A). The Congress will notice that in some of these commodities, such as cotton, corn, wheat, tobacco and rice, these support prices have been in effect for several years.
I am also attaching a statement showing the cost to the Government of this support-price program for 1943 (Schedule B). The Congress will notice that production of only a fraction of the commodities required any outlay by the Government. In other words, in the majority of the products the price which the consumer paid was high enough to cover the support price; whereas in a small percentage of the crops the price which the consumer paid was not high enough to pay the fanner the price which was promised. For these items the Commodity Credit program for 1943 cost the Government $350,000,000. The administrative expenses of the Commodity Credit Corporation in carrying out the program were less than 3 per cent.
This cost does not include the Reconstruction Finance Corporation program for reducing the prices of meat and butter, which will amount to an additional $450,000,000 per year.
Compares Outlay to War Cost
I am sure that the Congress and the people feel that this expenditure of $800,000,000 per year is a moderate sum to pay in order to help accomplish the objectives which we have in mind—greater production and lower consumer prices—for a whole year. In fact, it is about equal to the cost to us of waging this war for three days.
We are only applying here the same principle which has proved so effective in the production of other war materials —such as copper, lead, zinc, aluminum and others.
Every nation now in the war has used some form of government equalization payments in order to hold down the cost of living and at the same time to allow a fair return to the farmers. A good part of the great success of the stabilization program in both Canada and Britain is due to the effective use of Government funds in this way.
Although this program cannot hold the line without the enforcement of a firm price control and without an adequate tax and savings program to absorb excess purchasing power, nevertheless it is equally true that the firmest price control and the wisest fiscal policy cannot do the job themselves without the use of price supports.
When properly used they have three important advantages: First, they stimulate production of certain necessary and select crops. Second, by preventing price increases they eliminate inflationary tendencies. Third, they encourage the
distribution of food through normal legitimate channels instead of black-market operators, who are willing to pay higher prices to farmers with the expectation of selling above ceiling prices. When effectively used, this program not only performs this necessary function in stabilization of the cost of living but it also results in great savings to the Government and to consumers. The expenditure of very small sums makes it possible to avoid pyramiding price increases all down the line—from the producer through the processors, wholesalers, jobbers and retailers—the cost of which runs to extremely large amounts.
Copper Cited as an Example
In the case of copper, for example, it has been estimated that every dollar paid by the Government to subsidize and increase production has saved the Government $28.
In the case of the coal and oil transportation subsidy, very moderate payments have avoided major increases in prices. If there had been increases in the prices of these basic items, they would have increased the cost of producing practically every commodity manufactured on the East Coast.
In the case of food, the money spent by the Government has not only assured us increased production but, directly and indirectly, has saved the Government and consumers billions of dollars.
The agencies charged with responsibility for stabilizing the cost of living will, from time to time, place before the Congress the programs necessary to hold the line. These will require money. I strongly urge the Congress to give serious consideration to their requests. I am confident that the executive and legislative branches of the Government can pull in harness to get the job done.
The administration of the food program has certainly resulted in a great benefit to farmers. Farm income last year reached an all-time peak—and this year it will be higher still. The increase in the prices that farmers pay for the commodities they buy, on the other hand, has been held to very much less than the increase in the prices they receive for their farm products.
In consequence, the net income of farm operators—income after all expenses—has risen to the highest level ever enjoyed by farmers. The average annual realized net income of the farm operators of the nation during the five pre-war years, 1935 to 1939, was $4,668,000,000. The realized net income for 1939 was $4,430,000,000. In 1942 it was $9,500,000,000. The estimate for 1943 is $12,475,000,000.
We cannot, however, look at the total income of farm operators by itself. We must also look at the income of the farmer in relation to the income of the rest of the country.
The average income per farmer since the outbreak of the war in 1939 has risen more than the average income of the other parts of the population. This was also true between 1910 and 1914, which is the primary base period for parity calculation. In 1942 the increase in the average income per farmer oyer the parity base period was 38 per cent greater than the increase in the average income of the other people in the country. In 1943 it was 50 per cent greater.
In plain language, the farmer this year, is not only better off in relation to others in the population than he was before the war broke out; he is better off than he was in the base period 1910 to 1914, and better off than he has been in any year since that time.
Holds Injustice Is Corrected
This is just and desirable.
All through the twenties, and through the early years of the thirties, per capita farm incomes were far below fair levels. The nation has profited from the fact that this injustice has been corrected.
It has been argued that the farm population has been receiving a decreased proportion of the national income. This is true. But it does not deny the fact that the average individual farmer is more prosperous today, as compared with the rest of the population, than he has been in thirty years. Any seeming contradiction is solved by the fact that the non-farm population has increased during this thirty year period by more than 50 per cent, while the farm population has remained virtually unchanged.
While, therefore, the proportion of the national income going to the farm population as a whole has declined, the income per farmer has increased more than the per capita income of the rest of the country.
The present program of management of farm prices-prices received and prices paid—had not injured the American farmer in the past. I am sure that it will not in the future.
In addition to these favorable prices and incomes, the farmer has been guaranteed Government support of the prices he receives for war crops, not only during the war, but for two years afterward—a guarantee against post-war disaster afforded to no other group. The farmer has been assured that the bottom will not fall out of his market— as it did after the last war. This guarantee has made it possible for him to increase his investment in plant and equipment with the certainty that the investment would continue to pay dividends. It has also assured to the nation a farm production large enough to meet our war requirements.
Subsidies Laid to War
The support price program, coupled with the program to meet special farming costs without raising prices to consumers, is an essential part of winning the war. The subsidies that are used cannot properly be called producer subsidies or consumer subsidies. They are war subsidies. The costs which they cover are war costs. On the farm as in industry the war has pushed costs above the levels that prevailed before the outbreak of war, and above the levels that will prevail when victory has been won. These are costs of war, and it is entirely appropriate that they should be met out of the public treasury, just as are the costs of producing tanks and planes and ships and guns. There is no valid reason why the present stabilization subsidies should not be continued as well as the support prices to farmers, so long as they are clearly in our national interest—as they are in stabilizing the cost of living in time of war.
Consumer Food Prices
In the Stabilization Act of Oct. 2, 1942, the Congress directed that the cost of living be stabilized as far as practicable at the level of Sept, 15, 1942. Between that date and May 15, 1943, however, the cost of living rose 6.2 per cent. This was a serious increase, constituting a grave threat to the entire stabilization program. It was particularly serious because the cost of living since January, 1941, had risen considerably more than the Little Steel formula had permitted wages to rise.
Obviously, wages cannot be stabilized at a certain level unless there is also a stable cost of living. Obviously, too, the millions of people with incomes fixed long before the war—salaried white-collar workers, clergymen, school teacher.
Therefore it is planned that the Government itself either purchase or otherwise control certain foods, or absorb the transportation costs—in order to stretch consumption through the year and to insure distribution that is fair to all parts of the country. Such operations would also go a long way toward stamping out black markets. These devices will be used selectively and only to the extent necessary to achieve the objective of year-round, orderly distribution.
Control and distribution by rationing has involved many difficult administrative problems, most of which have been solved by experience. No one would contend that mistakes were not made. Nevertheless there has been steady improvement. A recent survey has shown that 93 per cent of American housewives agree that a good job—a job fair to all—has been done.
Unfortunately the 7 per cent who are not satisfied are more vocal than the 93 per cent who are. Many reasons explain this.
Although civilians with their greatly increased purchasing power will not be able to purchase all the food for which they have the money, there will be a sufficient amount of good, wholesome food for the people of the United States.
From a nutrition standpoint the civilian per capita food supply during this year of 1943 will compare favorably with the average for the pre-war period 1935 to 1939.
There have been inconveniences to the American dining table—even shortages of certain foods. But no American has gone hungry—in fact the American people as a whole are eating more now than they did before Pearl Harbor.
The American people realize that unless every farmer does his share to get full production, and unless every civilian plays fair and does not seek to get more than his proper share of the limited supply, they may be depriving some of our soldiers or fighting allies of needed food to sustain them in their struggle.
Administration of the Food Program
There has been loose talk in some quarters about the need for a food "czar" to have full control of food—including not only production and distribution but prices, rationing and transportation. The fact is that the production and allocation and distribution of food of all kinds are all now under the control of one man—the War Food Administrator.
The War Food Administration is the agency which allocates the available supply of food to civilian, military, and lend-lease needs.
That part of the food supply which is allocated to civilians, in so far as rationing and ceiling prices are concerned, comes under the supervision of the Office of Price Administration. The Office of Price Administration does not ration food on its own initiative, but only on the recommendation of the War Food Administration. In other words, the War Food Administration determines when the demand for food of a certain kind so exceeds the supply of that food that rationing is required. When such determination is made the Office of Price Administration takes charge of the actual mechanics of rationing.
This is the most logical procedure, because it places the actual administration of rationing—the ration coupons, the ration boards, the ration regulations-in the same body of citizens that rations gasoline, fuel oil, shoes and the other products, and it leaves the determination of the necessity for rationing food in the War Food Administration. There can fee no reason, in logic or necessity, for setting up a new. ration board in all the localities in the United States for each different product.
Price Fixing Method Told
With respect to prices, it is true that the War Food Administration should be concerned with the fixing of price ceilings. It is. No price ceiling on agricultural commodities is fixed by- the Office of Price Administration without the concurrence of the War Food Administration. In other words, the Office of Price Administration and the War Food Administration either agree on a price or any disagreement is settled by the Director of Economic Stabilization.
In this way the Food Administrator has a great deal to say about the price of food—but not all. For the price of food should be kept in proper relationship to the prices of other commodities; and therefore it has been deemed advisable to put all price fixing and enforcement in one agency. There is no reason why the War Food Administration should have its own corps of price enforcement officials to duplicate the work of the other price enforcement officials in the Office of Price Administration.
With respect to transportation it would be impossible to give the War Food Administrator complete control over the transportation of food because every car used to transport food is a car which is also greatly in demand for the transportation of other war products. Obviously there must be an agency which apportions the transportation facilities among the various war needs and it would disrupt prosecution of the war and result in chaos if the War Food Administrator were able to take a car needed for steel or weapons or chemicals or equipment and use it for food transportation.
The case is exactly the same for prices as for transportation. We cannot permit any part of the program, food or rubber, or any other, to have a free hand in bidding materials and manpower away from other equally essential parts of the war effort. If in transportation chaos would result, how shall we characterize the consequences on the price front where the relationships are even more complex and delicate than in transportation?
The fact is that the administration of food is now properly centered in one man and one agency, except only where such administration might encroach upon other war agencies which deal with such separate but relevant subjects as price control, transportation, etc.
There have been many complaints about the existence of black markets in food. It is an unfortunate fact that many persons who complain of black markets are themselves individually encouraging them by their patronage. Some black markets exist in all nations which have rationing. The operators of these black markets are unpatriotic—and as they are caught they will be punished. But we should all attach as much blame to those of our citizens who hurt their neighbors and their nation by paying exorbitant prices in black markets. Vigorous efforts are being made by the appropriate Government agencies to stamp out black markets.
The objectives of our food program will, as in the past, be to grow and raise as much foodstuffs as is humanly possible.
We shall maintain our fighting men as the best-fed in all the world.
We shall guarantee that every individual of our civilian population will have an ample and healthful diet. Every one may be assured that there will be enough food to go around. No one need fear that only a comparatively few people will be able to afford an adequate and varied diet.
We shall assist in fulfilling the requirements of our fighting allies for food and shall also assist in assuring that the liberated peoples will be given sufficient food to regain their physical and economic strength.
Our farmers will receive a return over and above their costs of production that will compensate them decently and adequately for their long and arduous work. At the same time the consumers of the nation will be protected against rising costs which are properly chargeable to the war effort itself.
Calls Price Program Success
The price-support program is proving reasonably successful on both fronts: Increasing production and maintaining fair food prices for the consumer. I am convinced that to abandon our present policy would increase the cost of living, bring about demands for increased wages which would then be justifiable, and might well start a serious and dangerous cycle of inflation—without any net benefit to anyone.
Some people say "a little inflation will not hurt anyone." They are like the man who takes the first shot of opium for the sensation he thinks it will give him. He likes it, although he swears that he will not make it a habit. Soon he is taking two—and then more and more—and then he loses all control of himself.
Inflation is like that. A little leads to more. I am unalterably opposed to taking the first shot by Congressional, or by any other, action. The nation cannot afford to acquire the habit. We have children to think of.
Those who are advocating an inflation course will have to be ready to accept responsibility for the results. We have so far been following a tried path, and are getting along fairly well. This is no time to start wandering into an untried field of uncontrolled and uncontrollable prices and wages.
With the same determination that has led our fighting men to conquer their military objectives, we at home shall reach the objectives of our food program. We will get the production that we have set as our goal. We will see that the supplies of food are distributed fairly and equitably and at stable prices that are fair to the consumer.
To do this we shall have to draw upon that basic characteristic of a democracy—a characteristic that has its roots in the American farm community. We shall draw on our teamwork, teamwork of the fanner, and the consumer, and the distributor, and the government in both its legislative and executive branches.
The accomplishments of the past year have been great. We shall demonstrate to the Axis how the teamwork of a free people can make even those records fall. We shall demonstrate that freedom and teamwork make the people of a democracy the most efficient producers in the world— whether it be of battleships, tanks, planes, guns, or of the produce of the soil.
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The White House,
Nov. 1, 1943.