Policy Statement Prepared by the Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform Problems1


Land Reform Policy*

Foreign policy, to be effective, frequently requires the support of active and progressive programs in other countries. Mere allegations [Page 1667] against other ideologies are not enough to fulfill our positive objectives.

In most countries, including our own, economic progress and political stability are closely related to the prevailing system of agricultural economic institutions. In many areas present unsatisfactory institutional arrangements are a source of persistent discontent and unrest. This has been recognized in U.S. domestic policy and more recently emphasized in our foreign policy as illustrated by far-reaching land reform in Japan and support of land reform measures in Formosa.

Policy Objectives

1. The basic objective is to improve agricultural economic institutions in order to lessen the causes of agrarian unrest and political instability. This objective should be sought by improving the position of the farmer on the land to the end that he may have (a) greater security of tenure, (b) an incentive to increase production and conserve resources (including the utilization of technological advances suitable to each economy), and (c) an equitable share of the output.

(It is, of course, recognized that specific land reform measures will have to be evaluated in relationship to the conditions peculiar to each region and country.)

2. A secondary objective is to disengage “land reform” from the complex of ideas exploited by Soviet Communism, by making clear to the various peoples and governments of the world that genuine land reform can be achieved through their own governmental processes, and that steps in the direction of accomplishing the basic objective will receive U.S. support, as appropriate.

Policy Guide

The United States Government:

Will give encouragement and assistance to land reform when and wherever it will substantially contribute to promoting the objectives enumerated above.
Will take every opportunity2 in both planning and administration of its foreign economic and technical assistance programs to encourage and assist desirable land reform measures.
Will also lend other practical assistance to desirable land reforms in addition to its economic and technical assistance programs.
Will actively encourage and assist in carrying forward land reforms in non-self-governing territories under U.S. administration and will be prepared, upon request, to work with other governments in connection with desirable land reform in such territories under their administration.
Will take every opportunity to support and encourage desirable land reform programs through all appropriate international agencies.
Will give extensive publicity, both at home and abroad, to accomplishments in support of land reform, and to progress in the U.S. and in other countries toward the above objectives.

  1. This policy statement was transmitted to the Secretary of State on March 23 under cover of the following letter from Clarence J. McCormick, Under Secretary of Agriculture and Chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform Problems:

    • “The Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform Problems, which was set up several months ago under my chairmanship, has prepared a proposed statement on Land Reform Policy which, under the Committee’s terms of reference, is to serve as a recommendation to the Secretary of State on United States foreign policy with respect to land tenure problems
    • I take pleasure in submitting to you the enclosed policy declaration—with the request of the Committee that you send me your concurrence, or suggested revisions, that it be recommended to the Secretary of State as a directive for United States policy in this field.” (811.16/3–2351)
    • On April 11 Secretary of Agriculture Charles F. Brannan informed the Secretary of State by letter that the policy statement printed here had been approved by all the participating agencies in the Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform Problems other than the Department of State. Brannan asked that the policy statement be accepted as official policy of the Department of State and be transmitted to responsible officials abroad. (811.16/4–1151) In letters of reply of April 10 and April 25, respectively, Under Secretary of State James Webb informed Under Secretary McCormick and Secretary Brannan that the Department of State was sending the Land Reform Policy Statement to American Embassies, Legations, and some Consulates for information, guidance, and request for suggestions for modifications. Webb’s letter to Brannan specifically stated that the Department of State had approved the policy statement. (811.16/ 3–2351 and 811.16/4–1151) For the circular airgram of April 17 transmitting the policy statement to diplomatic and consular officers abroad, see infra.
    • This policy statement, with the revision indicated in footnote 2 below, was approved by the Inter-Agency Committee and circulated as a document dated March 19. The revised text was used in the Department of State circular airgram of April 17 and was circulated at the Under Secretary’s Meeting as document UM D–142, May 10, as background for the discussion in the Under Secretary’s Meeting of May 14; see the record of that meeting, p. 1671. A copy of UM D–142 was sent to George Elsey, Administrative Assistant to President Truman, on May 11 under cover of the following note from J. Robert Schaetzel, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs:
      • “George, I don’t know whether this paper—and the continuing work in the land reform field—has been brought to your attention. It is a rare example of the Department’s exploring a new field of international activity. It might also be a useful peg for a speech one day.” (George M. Elsey Papers, Harry S. Truman Library)
      • The Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform Problems under Under Secretary McCormick’s chairmanship included representatives from the Department of State, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Labor, and the Economic Cooperation Administration. The papers of the Inter-Agency Committee have not been found in the central files of the Department of State.

  2. Land reform is concerned with improvement of agricultural economic institutions, i.e. agricultural land ownership and tenancy, land rents, taxation of agricultural land or income from land, and also agricultural credit and producer marketing. Agricultural technology, physical problems of land utilization and development, conservation of resources, methods and levels of productivity, and problems of rural industries will be included insofar as they are relevant to the institutional problems enumerated above. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. As subsequently revised by the Inter-Agency Committee, as transmitted in the circular airgram of April 17, and as circulated as UMD–142, May 10, the phrase “take every opportunity” was deleted from this paragraph.