FW 550 AD 2/8–2444

The Secretary of Agriculture (Wickard) to the President1

Dear Mr. President: Your remarks at the Cabinet meeting on Friday, August 18, in regard to our relations with the British Government were of special interest to me. While I realize that these matters are being carefully considered in the State Department and in inter departmental circles, their special significance for agriculture leads me to submit certain points for your consideration and for possible back ground in connection with your forthcoming meeting with Prime Minister Churchill.

After the war the United States and a good many other countries will have substantial surpluses of agricultural products for export. Even if it were to prove possible to maintain a high level of employment and purchasing power in the United States and abroad, the world agricultural surplus disposal problem would still be substantial. To protect their farmers against this situation, countries throughout the world are setting up national programs involving price supports and governmental control of foreign trade. It is important, it seems to me, to minimize or forestall clashes between these national programs.

At recent international conferences, it has been agreed that the problem of agricultural surpluses is international in scope and should be approached through multilateral rather than unilateral action. This means the negotiation of international arrangements with respect to individual commodities, in which all producing and consuming countries, large and small, having a substantial interest in the commodity would have an opportunity to participate. Such arrangements could make possible an orderly expansion in world trade and consumption. This approach was specifically endorsed by the Hot Springs Conference.2 Moreover, in its First Report to the Governments of the United Nations, released to the press yesterday,3 the Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture recommended that a special conference be held to set up an international commodity organization.

Under these circumstances we in this Department are much concerned as to the implications of the present British policy of negotiating bilateral purchase contracts which discriminate against United States agriculture in the postwar British market. The British Ministry of Food has contracted with the governments of Canada and New [Page 163] Zealand to buy their surplus meat and dairy products for four years ending in 19–48 and have given price guarantees for 1945 and 1946. Negotiations with Australia are under way and I understand that an inquiry has been made by the British Ministry of Food as to the attitude of this Government toward their making a similar commitment to buy Argentine beef.4 It seems to me that these contracts, especially if they represent settled policy rather than mere temporary measures, run counter to Section 7 of the Master Lend-Lease Agreement5 and Para graph 4 of the Atlantic Charter.6

It would, therefore, be helpful if the views of the Prime Minister were ascertained on the following points:

Does the British Government consider the present bilateral purchasing arrangements and those under negotiation as no more than stop-gap measures to be replaced in due course by multilateral arrangements?
Is the British Government now ready for the early convening of an international conference to formulate principles for international commodity arrangements and to establish an international commodity organization?


Claude R. Wickard

  1. Roosevelt forwarded this letter to the Under Secretary of State (Stettinius) on August 24, 1944, with the request that the Department of State draft a reply. See Hull’s memorandum to Roosevelt of September 2, 1944, post, p. 168.
  2. i.e., the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, held at Hot Springs, Virginia, May 18–June 3, 1943. For documents concerning this conference, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, pp. 820 ff.
  3. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, vol. xi, August 27, 1944, pp. 207–208.
  4. Churchill had sent to Roosevelt on July 14, 1944, a minute by the British Minister of Food (Llewellin) concerning British purchases of Argentine beef. See Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. vii, p. 333.
  5. Signed at Washington, February 23, 1942. For text, see Department of State, Executive Agreement Series No. 241; 56 Stat. (2) 1433.
  6. Released August 14, 1941. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367; Department of State, Executive Agreement Series No. 236; 55 Stat. (2) 1603.