561.311F1 Advisory Committee/1049: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

4867. Personal to the Secretary and for the Under Secretary. This is to take up with you the problems of the Wheat Conference which is scheduled to meet in Washington on October 13. The President received the other day a message on this subject from the Prime Minister. (Embassy’s 4796, October 8, 9 p.m.)

The report of the preliminary Wheat Conference, which met in Washington this summer, was received in England with decided objection and I believe if it had not been for the educational work done while here by Mr. Appleby, the Under Secretary, and Mr. Evans of the Department of Agriculture, the British Cabinet might have arbitrarily rejected the findings of the Conference and attempted to indefinitely postpone further discussion. Their attitude at that time in my opinion was based on: insufficient knowledge, the fact that they had encouraged wheat growing here as a war measure and were fearful that agreements made now to cut acreage immediately following the war would discourage wheat growing during the war, the question of rotation of crops, the influence of the “National Farmer’s [Page 539] Union”, the price arrangements in the suggested agreement which in my judgment had not been sufficiently thought through (paragraph 1, Embassy’s 3836, August 23, 11 p.m.), the possible political repercussions on the Conservative Party, and the question of monetary exchange following the war. These were all considerations tending to lead them into a narrow isolationist policy with little time or attention given to the consideration of a sound world-wide agricultural economy.

In my judgment we dissuaded them from these premises and got a general acceptance of the need of orderly arrangements as set forth in the Department’s instruction 553, dated September 4, 1941, and which I transmitted to Mr. Eden in a note dated September 17.

In the last 10 days however there has developed opposition to the Conference proposals on an entirely separate issue. In the departmental memorandum and included in my note of September 17 appeared the following paragraph.

“It is of course in the interest of the wheat-exporting countries that European wheat-importing countries should learn as soon as possible of the new policy which they will at the appropriate time be pressed to adopt. It is before and not after their urgent post-war needs have been relieved that they should appreciate the necessity of international collaboration in working out an effective solution of the world wheat problems.”

The position taken in this statement has seriously disturbed the War Cabinet and is primarily responsible for the Prime Minister’s message to the President. At the present time the occupied countries of Europe have shown strong resistance to German oppression. The population of this area is composed largely of peasants who in the past have been large producers of wheat or to put it more simply raise their own bread. At the present time they are forced on starvation rations by the Germans who rob them of their grain and other foodstuffs. Since the preliminary Conference first met England has joined with Russia as an ally which further complicates the problem. Russia was not a party to the conversations and in the past has been a large producer of wheat.

The British are genuinely worried that in the psychological war which necessarily affects opinion on the continent any agreement based on the assumption of Allied victory with an undertaking by the British Empire and the United States which could be misrepresented by the Goebbels4 propaganda machine as a plan to arbitrarily omit the internal production of wheat in Europe to the advantage of wheat growers of the western world as a kind of prize of victory [Page 540] would injure the war effort. It is for this reason that the Prime Minister asked for the limitations on conference action at this time.

I think that Mr. Steere, the Agricultural Attaché at the Embassy, still feels that reactionary elements in the Government are simply using this as a device to block action. That is not my opinion although I am well aware that there are those who would be glad to see any outside factor aid them in their opposition. In a very frank talk with the Prime Minister he told me that the wheat problem as it affected Great Britain was not a matter of concern to him and I believe he is in agreement with us on our general proposals. He would also like to support our position because he is aware of the interests of the western farmer in the United States in this program and realizes that a way should be found to stabilize agriculture in order to prevent after-war dislocation that might interfere with British-American relations.

I wish you personally could take this matter up with the President, Mr. Wallace5 and Mr. Wickard6 and find a formula that permits constructive cooperative action without advantage to the enemy. It is a situation in which wise counsel is needed. I regret that I have not been of more assistance.

  1. Josef Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda.
  2. Henry A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States.
  3. Claude R. Wickard, Secretary of Agriculture.