Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

September 26, 1946

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have been somewhat disturbed by the comments on the meat situation, and since I happen to know of my own knowledge something about the meat situation, and since I have been from a meat-producing State, and have been--during the early years of the war--into it in detail, I am now and for some time have been looking into this present meat shortage.

In July and August, when there was no price control on meat, meat was abundant. Now there is price control, and meat is short. It is natural, therefore, for people to blame the shortage on price control. This line of reasoning is wholly wrong.

The fact is that the present shortage is due in large part to the extraordinarily large slaughter in July and August. Without price control, prices of the relatively short supply of livestock went to unprecedented heights. A lot of livestock was rushed to the market because of these prices, and because it was known that the controls were likely to be restored. Many of these cattle would normally have been fed to heavier weights and have gone to market during September and October, instead of August.

And those underfed cattle that were sold added to the shortage--there was that many fewer pounds of meat when they were slaughtered.

Whether price control had been restored or not, the glut of meat in the summer was bound to mean a shortage in the fall, especially on desirable cuts and grades. Besides, with the restoration of price controls after a period of uncertainty and confusion, it was only natural that livestock growers would hesitate to send their animals to market. Producers would naturally hope that something might happen to give them higher prices again.

Mr. Anderson dispelled that idea the other night in his speech.

To the extent that livestock is going into feed lots and being fed to higher grades and better weights, the result will be a greater quantity and better quality of meat in the near future than would be the case if there had been a further continuance of the premature marketing of livestock.

That's just in line with what I told you about, that they were worth more when they were short.

Also, the normal run of grass-fed cattle, which occurs in the early fall, should soon begin to appear, with a consequent improvement in the meat supply.

But I want to say to you that the fat grass-fed cattle supply is also short, for the simple reason that there was a drought in the Southwest beginning in June, which dried up most of the grass, so the ordinarily large supply of grass-fed cattle will also be short; although what there is of the grass-fed cattle will be shipped in October.

I know about these things, for I lived in one of the greatest cattle growing States in the country most of my life, and I spent all of my young days feeding cattle and livestock and hogs, so I know what I'm talking about on this. [Laughter]

The fall run of hogs which normally begins in October may be somewhat later this year because of the prospects of a record corn crop, and the resulting opportunity for profit from feeding to heavier weights. Ordinarily, the heaviest hog slaughter occurs in the period from October through February, during which over half of the total yearly slaughter customarily takes place.

You see, there are two crops of pigs in this country, in the spring and in the fall. Fall hogs you feed through the winter.

In spite of the outlook for temporary relief in the next few months, it is hard to predict what may happen in the spring.

Now this meat shortage, to some extent, is due to the fact that we were willing to ship some of our short grain supplies to those countries where people were starving to death. All this dovetails in together.

It is very possible that there may be periods in various parts of the country when meat is scarce. Certainly, however, the dire predictions of a meat famine are without basis. I want to repeat that the difficulties with our meat supply cannot be laid at the door of price control. If, as I had urged upon the Congress, the price control legislation had been reenacted in the early spring, many of these difficulties would have been avoided. It is clear, however, that the present level of livestock ceilings as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture is fair and equitable, and one which should be sufficient to bring forth the maximum production of meat. An increase in prices or abandonment of price control on meat now would, in the long run, add to rather than solve our difficulties.

Now that will be available for you for distribution as soon as it can be mimeographed. I was slow in getting it ready, but it will be ready for you.

Q. Mr. President, there's a meat shortage at present

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, there's a meat shortage at present.

Q. --which housewives don't understand.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. When you say that dire predictions of a meat famine are without basis, you mean that fairly soon we will have some meat?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. Can't hear Mr. Godwin back here.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Godwin asks if there is a meat shortage now; and of course there is a shortage of meat now. He wants to know if it is a meat famine. I say it is not a meat famine. It is a shortage but not a famine. There is some meat for distribution.

Q. Mr. President, several of us have just come from the Executive Committee meeting of the Democratic National Committee. At their lunch today the Executive Committee passed a resolution unanimously which ends, "It was the consensus of the meeting that the Chairman immediately discuss with the Decontrol Board and any other proper authorities, ways and means of increasing the meat supply available to the American people."

THE PRESIDENT. My statement--

Q. The only thing that Chairman Hannegan would discuss with the Decontrol Board would be taking off the price control from meat, would it not?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes--and it is my opinion, with all the facts before me, that that would not help the situation, but would hurt it in the future.

Q. You differ with Mr. Hannegan on that point?

THE PRESIDENT. I have the facts right here in my statement. If Mr. Hannegan does not agree with them, of course he and I do not agree.

Q. Mr. President, can the Decontrol Board act independently in this matter, or does it have to--

THE PRESIDENT. No, there is a certain procedure which has to be gone through.

Q. It has to have a recommendation from somebody--

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. Mr. President, Congressman Sabath adds another element to this meat situation. He sent a telegram to the Attorney General today, which charged that the packers are conducting an organized strike of organized greed against the American people. Do you see any signs of such a thing as that?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about it, if there is. Mr. Sabath is in Chicago. He is closer to the situation. I don't know anything about that. That's not in these--taken into consideration in these facts [pointing to his statement]. I don't think--these are the facts really, as the situation stands.

Q. Mr. President, you think that meat will be substantially available in the near future?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so, yes--if the people will just be patient and let this thing catch up with itself. It's that panic when the price control went off that has caused this situation.

Q. Summing all this up, you are opposed to the removal of price control?

THE PRESIDENT. I certainly am. And I tried to get the Congress to agree with that beginning last September--a year ago.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that there is a possibility that meat cattle raisers are deliberately holding cattle off the market-which normally would come to market--for the purpose of panicking the country and forcing the end of price controls on meat?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know as to that. I have made no investigation. That is entirely possible, however.

Q. Do you think it is possible, now that you and Mr. Anderson have made it clear that there isn't going to he a break in the ceiling, that the price of meat may come down?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very sure that that is the case. That's the reason that I am trying to make it perfectly plain just what the situation actually is.

Q. Mr. President, that bill you vetoed provided for meat control, did it not?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't remember. I can't answer that intelligently without taking a look.

Q. Mr. President, the statement you just read at the outset is for direct quotation ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It will be furnished to you as soon as we can have it mimeographed. That's the facts as they are, and I can guarantee that that's the facts, because I know.

Q. But by "in the near future," does that mean--would you say something more specifically than near future ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think you can, because nobody can tell you exactly what date it will be. It depends on how the cattle come to market.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, did you see John McCormack's telegram on the statement that he made?

THE PRESIDENT. I saw the purported statement, and Mr. John McCormack was talked to by my Secretary. He said he didn't make any such statement. I told him to get in touch with me.

Q. Didn't make?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. Mr. President, is there any likelihood that Congress will be convened in special session?

THE PRESIDENT. I see no reason for it.

Q. You mean Mr. McCormack hasn't seen you about it?

THE PRESIDENT. No. He said he didn't make any such statement.

Q. His statement had several parts, Mr. President. You mean the part about his consultation--

THE PRESIDENT. Consultation with me. That's the only part in which I was interested.

[3.] Q. Well, what about your new Ambassador to Great Britain, have you decided on him?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not.

Q. You haven't reached a decision ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't reached a decision. I will let you know as soon as I do.

[4.] Q. Members to the Atomic Energy Commission, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't reached a decision on that as yet. As quickly as I can get that together, I will let you know about it.

Q. Would that apply, Mr. President, to the possibility of Bob La Follette coming in--

THE PRESIDENT. I have no statement today to make on the Atomic Energy Commission.

[5.] Q. How about TVA?

THE PRESIDENT. No statement.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, the War Department has announced that infantry task forces are operating in Alaska and the Aleutians for training and testing of equipment. The Army Air Forces, which hasn't made any such announcement, is also sending a good deal of equipment up there. I wondered if you could say anything about that?


[7.] Q. Mr. President, have you any comment to make on Mr. Stalin's recent statement on international affairs?

THE PRESIDENT. The statement speaks for itself. I have no comment.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's eighty-fourth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, September 26, 1946.

Harry S. Truman, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232107

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