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Letter to Senator Thomas on the Distribution of Surplus Perishables to Welfare and Relief Agencies.

September 14, 1950

Dear Senator Thomas:

Under Section 416 of the Agricultural Act of 1949, this Government has made certain perishable surplus commodities available to public and private welfare and relief agencies at home and abroad. Dried milk, dried eggs, cheese and butter acquired under our price support program and not saleable on the open market, have been offered to these agencies without charge, in order to forestall spoilage and waste.

We have done this because it makes no sense for the Government to store surpluses which cannot be sold and will surely spoil, while there are people in our own country or overseas who badly need the food.

Unfortunately, the welfare and relief organizations to whom we have offered these surpluses, have often been unable to pay the cost of transporting the food from government warehouses to distribution and shipping points. Transportation within the United States has been a particular problem for relief agencies overseas. As a result, our gifts have been refused in many cases, and the Government has had no choice but to continue to store the food.

In order to remedy this situation, the House of Representatives has recently passed a bill, H.R. 9313, which is now pending before the Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee. This bill would authorize the Government to pay costs of transportation in cases of this kind from storage to central distribution points for domestic use and to ports for shipment overseas. The appropriate public and private agencies would be expected to pay for further shipment and handling.

The school lunch programs and the Federal Government's other welfare activities would be the first to benefit. State, local and private relief organizations would also be assisted. The agencies of the United Nations and the many private groups contributing to the welfare of those in need abroad would be helped greatly. This will not be a costly program. It is no more expensive to ship dried eggs and milk, for example, than to carry them in storage for months on end.

We have a statute on the books permitting us to give these perishable foods to those in need. We ought at once to take the necessary steps to put this authority into effect and get these surpluses where they will do some good. As I recall, you were the principal sponsor of this program of surplus disposal. I hope it will be possible for your Committee to follow up on the original law by reporting H.R. 9313 to the Senate in time for final Congressional action at the current session.

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Elmer Thomas, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.]

Note: Senator Thomas was Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee. On September 15 the Committee favorably reported the bill, but no action was taken on it by the Senate.

Harry S Truman, Letter to Senator Thomas on the Distribution of Surplus Perishables to Welfare and Relief Agencies. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230251

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