259. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, February 17, 19551

SUBJECT

  • Sugar Legislation

PARTICIPANTS

  • Mr. Waugh, E
  • Mr. McConnell, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture
  • Mr. Hoyt, MID
  • Mr. Callanan, IRD

Mr. McConnell opened the meeting by saying that he had come over to the State Department today to see just what could be worked out with regard to sugar legislation. He understood that State felt it had a clear indication from the White House as to the President’s wishes. Mr. McConnell said that Agriculture did not feel that it was clear what the President said or whether he meant exactly what he said. He noted that of 26 Senators at the meeting there were 26 versions of what the President said. Mr. Waugh reminded him that he had discussed the meeting with Dr. Hauge who had been present.

Mr. Waugh referred to a breakfast meeting he heard that Secretary Benson and Under Secretary Morse had with the President.2 He asked Mr. McConnell if they had discussed sugar legislation and if so what their understanding was as to the President’s feeling. Mr. McConnell replied that Messrs. Benson and Morse had come away from the White House with the feeling that if State, Agriculture and the industry could get together on a reasonable proposal for legislation effective before 1957 that the President would not object.

Mr. Waugh made it clear that State was in favor of legislation this year and had no objection to sharing increases in consumption. He remarked that the only point of difference between the two Departments seemed to be when new legislation would be effective. Mr. McConnell agreed this was so. He went on to say that it was utterly impossible for him to open negotiations with the industry on the basis that nothing could be done for them until January 1, 1957. He remarked on the great political strength of the sugar interests, and said that if he were asked he could not advise the President to refuse consideration of an effective date before 1957 without pointing [Page 792]out to him that the President should carefully weigh the political difficulties which would result. Mr. Waugh agreed that an effort should be made to avoid political difficulties for the President. Mr. McConnell indicated he was receiving numerous telephone calls from Senators and that they not only felt strongly but were highly emotional about sugar legislation.

Mr. McConnell said he thought the thing to do was to get the President to indicate that he preferred not having any legislation effective before 1957, but that if State, Agriculture and the industry could agree on a reasonable proposal effective before 1957 he would not be opposed. Mr. McConnell pointed out that we would then be in a strong negotiating position with the industry if they knew in advance that the President would only consider legislation under these terms. Mr. Callanan told Mr. McConnell that he should be aware that State had always put a great deal of emphasis on the desirability of allowing legislation to run its course. He outlined the situation in 1951 when State had agreed to a large increase in the Puerto Rican quota only because Agriculture, as a part of the bargain, agreed that the change would not be effective until the 1948 Act expired.3

Mr. McConnell suggested that State consider whether Cuba might get a better deal by our making some concessions to the domestic industry at this time rather than by our insistence on the present Act running its course. He pointed out that the domestic industry could put legislation through the Congress on their own terms whether the Administration liked it or not. He said it was never wise to win a skirmish and wind up losing the battle. Mr. Waugh conceded that this was a point which deserved careful consideration.

Mr. Waugh asked Mr. Hoyt if he believed Mr. Holland could be persuaded to change his present position. Mr. Hoyt said that it would be necessary to know what compensating factors there were which would convince Mr. Holland a change was desirable. Mr. Hoyt went on to describe the difficult political situation in Cuba and said that legislation injurious to Cuba’s interests could well overturn the new constitutional government.

Mr. Waugh agreed that he would ask Mr. Hoover tomorrow for his views on whether State should join Agriculture in an effort to moderate the present White House position.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 811.235/2–1755. Official Use Only. Drafted by Callanan.
  2. No record of this meeting has been found in Department of State files or the Eisenhower Library.
  3. Reference is to the Sugar Act Extension of 1951 (P.L. 82–140) enacted September 1, 1951; for text, see 65 Stat. 318. This act raised the Puerto Rican quota from 910,000 tons to 1,080,000 tons, but this provision did not become effective until December 31, 1952, when the Sugar Act of 1948 expired.