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The President's News Conference

May 03, 1929

THE PRESIDENT. I have a better supply of questions today. However, so many of them came in just 10 minutes ago that I am not going to deal with them until next time--some of them.

REDUCTION OF RAILWAY RATES

A number of them relate to this reduction in railway rates. And, by the way, anything I have got to say on this occasion is purely background to you, because I have no news or statements of my own at the moment.

That problem is simply that all the practicable, normal storage of the country today is filled. There is a very large amount of wheat still in the hands of the farmer from the last crop. We have the prospect of a larger crop than normal in front of us, and the necessity for us to get a clearance from storage if we are to handle the marketing of the new crop when it comes in.

Some weeks ago a conference was held at Topeka at the request of Governor [Clyde M.] Reed of Kansas, with various railway presidents-railway representatives. Nothing essential came from it. Senator [Arthur] Capper subsequently interested himself in the question, and one of the Southern gulf lines took some action.

About a week ago I requested Secretaries Hyde and Lamont to confer with the presidents of the Eastern trunk lines and Midwest railways to see what further could be done. And as a result the railways have undertaken to cooperate to the extent of a reduction of the railway rate from Midwest points of 9 cents a bushel on grain for export, that is, 9 cents is approximately the average from all Midwest points. The Gulf, Kansas City, and Southern(?) 1 in their reduction, I think, made it 7 cents.

1 The question mark appears in the transcript

The railways have given this very considerable concern in the hope that it will start the export movement again, and it is a fine action in cooperation.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection have you received any protest at all from the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce or the New York State Barge Lines and operators?

THE PRESIDENT. There is some protest. The flour people want a compensatory rate. That is a matter they want to take up with the I.C.C., [p.134] likewise the barge people. I am not settling railway rates, I am getting cooperation.

GENEVA MEETING ON DISARMAMENT

I have a number of questions on the Geneva Conference. I think the Secretary of State has cleared up most of those in the course of the day. It seems difficult to get a general understanding as to what is going on in Geneva.

This is not a disarmament conference--it is not a new event. It is the sixth meeting of the Preparatory Commission, and as I have said many times before, its purpose is to secure common language--a common denominator in questions of arms in order that there might be found the key by which the door could be opened to actual disarmament.

The work of that Commission naturally falls into the two branches-land and naval problems. On the land side, the American delegation had previously taken positions on certain technical methods of evaluating military strength. We had the view that it was extremely improbable that there would ever be a reduction in arms--in military strength that would concern or involve the United States, because we have already reduced our armies to a point far beneath any probable reduction that will ever take place in Europe. And through taking positions on technical questions of evaluating the fighting strength of armies, we had placed ourselves in the position of opposing or supporting particular theses that concern European countries and do not concern us.

So that Mr. Gibson's2 and our representatives' attitude has been solely to retire from expression of opinion pro and con on those technical questions, so that we shall not be in the position of obstructing any method which the European delegates may find which would clarify their own action.

2 Hugh Gibson was the Chairman of the American delegation to the sixth session of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference.

Our representatives felt that it would probably facilitate agreement amongst them if we withdrew from any previously expressed opinions on matters which were solely the concern of Europe. And thus we do not become a party to any European contentions.

There has been no abandonment, either directly or indirectly, in the general American position that the problem before the world is a reduction of armament. No expression, direct or indirect, on this implication has ever been given by any American representative in Europe, and any statement to the contrary is perhaps sent across for mischievous purposes.

On the naval side, the Commission has not yet entered into the particulars of new methods of endeavoring to evaluate the fighting strength of ships. We have, as I have told you before, felt that tonnage alone would never result in a successful disarmament conference, and that we must get nearer the approximate evaluating of fighting strength by some formula if we were to find the key that would open the door to any real conference on disarmament. The Commission will no doubt get into that discussion. It will be purely a technical discussion between technical people, and I have no doubt that their conclusions will be given out to the world when they come to them.

And the rest of your questions, so far as I am able, I will try and deal with next Tuesday. That will give me a little more than usual time, but I will need it considering the character of the questions.

Note: President Hoover's eighteenth news conference was held in the White House at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 1929.

Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209032

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