Food Administrator’s File

The Food Administrator ( Hoover) to the British Ambassador on Special Mission ( Reading)

Dear Lord Reading: At the inter-Allied conference last November a definite programme of cereal exports from the United States and elsewhere was agreed upon, and I attach a table showing this understanding.

[Page 542]

The totals from the United States from December 1 to August 1 are:

Wheat (or flour in terms of wheat) 900,000
Corn 1,350,000
Barley 400,000
Rye 580,000
Cereal Products 375,000
Total 3,605,000

Further, as it was strongly presented to the conference that the United States surplus of wheat was at that time already exhausted, it was agreed that the above wheat was to be considered an advance to be liquidated from Canada later in the year.

Up to the end of March there will have been placed at the disposal of the Allies approximately the following quantities as compared to the programme to that date:

Actual Programme Surplus Deficiency
Wheat (or flour in terms of wheat) 1,160,533 900,000 260,533
Corn 207,899 535,000 327,101
Barley 176,584 200,000 23,416
Rye 120,599 280,000 159,401
Cereal products 125,505 175,000 49,495
Totals 1,791,120 2,090,000 260,533 559,413

Net deficiency: 298,880

As against this supply we have received some 16,000,000 bushels or 430,000 tons from Canada. The Canadian exports were agreed in the inter-Allied conference at 2,725,000 tons of wheat as from December 1. Their shipments of wheat (or flour reduced from wheat) have been:

To Europe—
December 291,000
January 367,000
February 191,000
March 241,000
To United States 430,000

They have therefore a balance to ship of about 1,200,000 tons (now estimated at 1,100,000).

Since the date that programme was agreed, two misfortunes have supervened:

  • First: Of the corn crop, only about one-half matured to merchantable quality.
  • Second: The wheat crop proves to have been about 40,000,000 bushels less than estimated by the Department of Agriculture at harvest time, and, in consequence, we had no export surplus of wheat at all although we have already exported from the United States and placed contracts for export of over 90,000,000 bushels above Canadian receipts.

We are now taking measures to reduce our wheat consumption to approximately 50 per cent of normal for the balance of the year and thus to afford some further wheat exports beyond that shipped at the end of March. This means our population will have to live on less than two pounds of wheat bread per week against over five pounds to Allied countries.

A prime difficulty has, however, been created in the internal distribution of our wheat supplies, for in extracting wheat to date the pressure has been unduly large in various sections, due to internal transportation conditions, and the further amounts we can abstract must come from certain areas. In order to rectify this situation and give further supplies we must consolidate Canadian supplies with our own. For instance we should ship by sea from the Pacific Northwest to the Allies and draw from Canada into our milling centers at Minneapolis and Lake ports. I understand that the Canadian surplus April 1 is about 1,100,000 tons, or say, 40,000,000 bushels. In order to organize the matter in our joint interest, I would suggest the following plan,—

That for every two bushels of wheat (or flour in terms of wheat) we export to the Allies and Belgium, Holland and Switzerland, from April 1, we should draw from Canada one bushel at such times and places as we may direct.

Our shipments of wheat (or flour in terms of wheat) have been:

January 305,372 tons
February 298,921
March 381,571

I do not believe we can pour through our distributing machinery more than 350,000 tons per month on average, taking the whole transport problem in bulk as to the necessary receipt from the farms to centers and out again, et cetera.

To export 350,000 tons would mean that we need an intake from Canada of 175,000 tons, or 6,500,000 bushels per month. The Canadian surplus at April 1 would permit 250,000 tons direct export to the Allies and 175,000 to us per month for three months, or, until July 1. During this period there would be—provided railway transportation is available—a total of 600,000 tons of wheat per month from the United States and Canada. In addition it should be possible to ship 200,000 tons of corn and cereal products monthly, bringing the [Page 544] Atlantic programme up to 800,000 tons for April, May and June, which means a net further shipment from us as from April 1, of 20,000,000 bushels wheat or of products therefrom. If it should prove with experience that we can do more, we will send the last grain.

You will realize that we have neither adequate authority nor can we feasibly erect exact machinery for control of distribution, therefore all these plans must be taken as intentions to the best of our ability.

It seems to us that under the very hard conditions we are imposing upon our own people that this can only be defended if severe restrictions are imposed upon Canadian consumption.

Yours faithfully,

[ Herbert Hoover]