Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

October 29, 1943

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I have got a number of things.

Steve will have for you a story for release at noon, not to be released before then.

(Reading): "Simultaneously with the announcement by the President and the Prime Minister of a rearrangement of the Combined Food Board whereby Claude R. Wickard, Secretary of Agriculture, has been named neutral Chairman, and Canada has been invited to appoint a member, the President signed an Executive Order strengthening the War Food Administration by designating the War Food Administrator, Marvin Jones, Chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee and United States member of the Combined Food Board. The War Food Administrator and the Secretary of Agriculture will continue as members of the War Production Board.

"This represents an important step in the simplification of the food allocations process. And under the terms of the Order, the Food Advisory Committee and the Interagency Committee are abolished, and the War Food Administrator has created by administrative order a Food Requirements and Allocations Committee to pass on all domestic and foreign claims for food from United States sources.

"A strong food requirements and allocations mechanism in the War Food Administration will expedite food allocations. Under this arrangement the food requirements branch of the War Food Administration will present United States domestic claims for food and the newly created Office of Foreign Economic Administration will act as the claimant agency for food for foreign account. In this way, the machinery of food allocations will be similar to the Requirements Committee of the War Production Board that makes allocations on the industrial side. The Food Requirements and Allocations Committee should prove to be a time-saver, in that there will be but one such committee on which claimants for food are represented. It will in this way simplify interagency relationships.

"Having the War Food Administrator as the United States member of the Combined Food Board will facilitate the work of that Board in dealing with international food problems. Inasmuch as his deputy has been named chairman of the Food Requirements and Allocations Committee, the War Food Administrator will be in a position to state the American point of view on the Combined Food Board, and any possibility of conflicting American points of view in food allocation matters will be eliminated."

And then the text of the Executive Order.

'It all is working toward simplification, and Canada has been invited by the United States for the U. K. to become a full member of the Combined Food Board. It was set up, this combined Board, in June, 1942, in order to coordinate further in prosecuting the war effort, and so forth. I don't know that I need that—

MR. EARLY: (interposing) They have that, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: That I think you will get. It's all part and parcel, first, of the simplification process; and I hope that people also will keep it in mind in relation to the whole problem of food in this country, and throughout the world. You want to get rid of some—I don't want to say misunderstandings—but some lack of knowledge on the part of the general public of food throughout the world. I thought I could give you an illustration.

First of all, I think I will send up the Food Message on Monday to Congress. It's practically finished. And in connection with that Food Message there will be a good many figures. It's a tough thing to write about; but I think I will make it perfectly clear that on the whole, on the domestic side of things, the actual cost of food- well, you can't go behind statistics an awful lot—we all know that the cost of food in the last three months has gone up practically not at all, or very little—a very tiny percentage.

And that committee—the method that has been used since last July is a stabilization method. It has cost the country very, very little in actual cash, and it seems to be working pretty well toward the idea of stabilization.

At the same time, it all ties in with the general foreign picture, the winning of the war picture, things like, for instance, lend-lease. And I think I will bring out one fact- I don't know why it should not be talked about now, because you will have plenty to write about out of the message as a whole -just an interesting little item.

It's a thing called reverse lend-lease. We have been receiving from Australia enough beef and veal, practically, to feed all of our troops that are based on Australia. We are getting it through the lend-lease process, the reverse lend-lease process.

And the total amount of that beef and veal that we are receiving in reverse lend-lease is the same amount, roughly, that we are sending out of the United States to the European theater. It just about washes out. In other words, we are getting for our use as much as we are sending out for other people's use. Now that is an amazing statement. That is a real headline. In the long run that is something that the country doesn't know.

Of course, the Americans in the Southwest Pacific area are eating an awful lot. Instead of shipping American beef and veal out of here—a tremendously long voyage—we are feeding them in the Southwest area from Australia and New Zealand, and thereby saving an enormous amount on shipping, and getting this all from Australia and New Zealand on the reverse lend-lease basis. I didn't know it until this morning. I grabbed hold of it and said that's the thing that has been overlooked. . . .

Q. May I ask a question, sir? Farm people have various ideas about the food thing. One thing which seems to stick in their minds is that the food program, which is going forward, is lacking in farm machinery and material for farm machinery. I get the impression that they think it's lagging.

THE PRESIDENT: In a sense there is some truth in it. As you know, the allocations of steel for farm machinery that were made back last May and June, and some of them earlier than that, were very greatly increased. The companies that made farm machinery, who still had the machines to do it, were asked to make farm machinery up to full capacity. Well, during the past three months we have had quite a struggle with some of the people who were making farm machinery in the old days, because they didn't want to go back to farm machinery. I guess they could make more money out of munitions. And we have had a bit of opposition from some companies- not all by any means- in reverting to the making of farm machinery. It was perhaps a better thing from their point of view to make parts for old machinery for other purposes.

Q. But you insist on carrying out the program?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we have been pushing them and pushing them to carry out their part of the use of the steel and iron that has been turned over to them. They can get it. It is there.

And the only other thing is that I just want to say a word about this Moscow Conference. While documents and things like that are not ready for issue, the net result of the Conference has been a tremendous success, not only from what has been accomplished in the way of definite items of agreement, but also in the spirit of it.

When this thing started, there were a great many cynics who said, "Oh, they will all agree to disagree," and, "There will be a lot of suspicion and they won't get anywhere." But the spirit of the whole Conference has been amazingly good. I think Mr. Hull deserves a great deal of credit for that spirit, and I think the Russians and the British deserve equal credit. It has been—what we called in the old days in the Navy—a "happy ship." They have talked things out quietly. And the relationships between them individually have been about a hundred percent.

And just as soon as the documents are signed and they start to come back, the whole thing will be of course given out, probably from that end. . . .

Q. Can you tell us any more about the general nature of those documents?

THE PRESIDENT: I think I had better not, because I don't want to cross wires and state any generality here. It's better to get the whole thing from the other side. But it is all working, of course, toward the objective, which is a unanimity in not merely the progress of the war but in the transition period, of a friendly agreement as to what can be done on many practical things, not necessarily all of them.

We can't cross all the t's and dot all the i's in regard to all sorts of things. "What are you going to do about such and such a matter? What are you going to do about such and such a five-square kilometer area in the world?" Well, I call that a crossing of t's and dotting of i's.

This Conference has been engaged in considering the big things, the objectives.

Q. Mr. President, in a good many quarters of late, there has been expressed the feeling that in view of the developments some sort of redefinition or restatement in more explicit terms of this country's foreign policy as a whole might be in order, particularly with reference to what those objectives at Moscow might be. I know that's a large order, but is there anything that could be said at this Conference about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I suppose the easiest way to answer it is this, that when we went to this Conference all three Nations had a thing called an agenda, and in that agenda were many matters of general policy.

Well, if at this particular time, when our delegation went over there, had Mr. Hull been bound not merely to the general policy but certain more specific things, and the British had been bound to theirs, and the Russians had been bound to theirs, what would have been the use of a conference? You learn a lot in a conference, both sides.

The ultimate objectives, we all know pretty well what they are. The first desideratum is peace in the world and the end of aggression. That is far and away the most important thing.

But the idea of a conference is to confer, get the other fellow's point of view. It is quite possible that you might get a good idea from somebody else outside of our own borders. It is quite possible that you might persuade the other fellow that some idea that you had was a pretty good idea. I think we have all lost sight of the fact that the main practical point at the present time is to sit around the table and see if we can't agree, and swap various kinds of language.

Now, in conferences, domestic or foreign, you draw up a document. Well, it's done by some draftsman, and they agree that it is pretty darn good language, and you get a general agreement on the language. And then you bring it into the whole conference, before all the conferees.

And somebody says, "Don't you think it would be better to put it this way, in the light of all the circumstances?"

And the others say, "Well, that's a good idea. Let's change those few words, here or there."

Or they say, "No. No, I don't think that is so good. Let's try a third method."

And finally you get a document which has been gone over with a good deal of care and agreement. You can't just go in and say didactically, "Take this language. We won't consider any other language."

Now I think the Senate, in talking about a foreign policy resolution, will come out by using some fairly general language. If they become too specific, it might have to be changed when the time came. The Senate hasn't had the other fellow's point of view.

So I am very much in favor of a Senate Resolution which will point out to the country in general terms that after this war, in order to avoid future wars in the world, that this country will cooperate with other Nations toward that end. That would be something. It would be a very fine thing.

Q. Mr. President, does the committee Resolution reported out by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meet that specification?

THE PRESIDENT: That's the whole trouble. Now you put your finger right on it. How could I answer that question? You couldn't. I couldn't answer it. Now you are getting down to specific language. You and I could sit down, if we were the dictators of the world, and work out some language that you and I thought was 100 percent. And then Earl Godwin would come in and give us something that was better.

MR. GODWIN: Earl Godwin thinks that it does. (Laughter) Now, if it's just a matter of words, it's sort of silly to take up time—

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) Well, I think the Senate has every right to talk about it just as long as they want.

Q. Exactly, sir, we shouldn't say anything else. But suppose the Senate had adopted the Resolution, which it may at any moment, and you may be over in Europe, will the United States or will the President of the United States feel bound by this kind of Resolution?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a difficult thing to say. I might not like it.

Q. Well, it's an expression of the Senate. It isn't the ratification of anything.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if the general sentiment is all right, that's fine. I have told you what the general sentiment I think ought to be. This country wants to stop war. . . .

Q. The statement that the Conference has been a tremendous success would seem to imply that you are now confident of Russia's willingness to cooperate with us in maintaining peace?

THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't put it that way. I always have been personally. This confirms my belief.

Q. It has been confirmed—strengthened?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes. . . .

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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