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How Food Won the War

( Originally Published 1918 )

FOOD won the war. Without the American farmer the Entente Allies must have capitulated. Wheat, beef, corn, foods of every variety, hermetically sealed in tins, were thrown into the scales on the side of the Entente Allies in sufficient quantities to tip the balance toward the side of civilization and against autocracy. Late in the fall of 1918 when victory was assured to America and the Allies, there was received this message of appreciation from General Pershing to the farmers of America, through Carl Vrooman, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture :


Office of the Commander-in-Chief, France,

October 16, 1918. Honorable CARL VROOMAN, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture:

DEAR MR. VROOMAN: Will you please convey to farmers of America our profound appreciation of their patriotic services to the country and to the allied armies in the field. They have furnished their full quota of fighting men; they have bought largely of Liberty Bonds; and they have increased their production of food crops both last year and this by over a thousand million bushels above normal production. Food is of vital military necessity for us and for our Allies, and from the day of our entry into the war America's armies of food producers have rendered invaluable service to the Allied cause by supporting the soldiers at the front through their devoted and splendidly successful work in the fields and furrows at home.

Very sincerely,


This tribute to the men and women on the farms of America from the head of the American forces in France is fit recognition of the important part played by American food producers in the war. It was early recognized by all the belligerent powers that final victory was a question of national morale and national endurance. Morale could not be maintained without food. The bread lines in Petrograd gave birth to the revolution, and Russian famine was the mother of Russian terrorism. German men and women, starved of fats and sweets, deteriorated' so rapidly that the crime ratio both in towns and country districts mounted appallingly. Conditions in Austria-Hungary were even worse. Acute distress arising from threatening famine was very largely instrumental in driving Bulgaria out of the war.

On the other hand, Germany's greatest reliance for a victorious decision lay in the U-boat blockade of Great Britain, France and Italy. Though some depredations came to these countries, the submarine blockade never fully materialized and with its failure Germany's hopes faded and died.

The Entente Allies and the United States were fortunate in securing Herbert C. Hoover to administer food distribution throughout their lands and to stimulate food production by the farmers of the United States. After his signal success in the administration of the Belgian Relief Commission, Mr. Hoover be-came the unanimous choice of the Allies for the victualing of the militant and civilian, populations after America's entrance into the World

War. His work divided itself into three heads:

First, stimulation of food production.

Second, elimination of food wastage in the homes and public eating places of the country.

Third, education of food dealers and the public in the use of foods that were substitutes for wheat, rye, pork, beef and sugar.

After long and acrimonious debates in Congress, Mr. Hoover, as Federal Food Administrator, was clothed with extraordinary powers enabling him to fulfil the purposes for which he was appointed. The ability with which he and his associates performed their work was demonstrated in the complete débâcle of Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria-Hungary and Germany. These countries were starved out quite as truly as they were fought out. The concrete evidence of the Food Administration's success is shown in the subjoined table which indicates the increase over normal in exporting of foodstuffs by the United States since it became the food reservoir for the world on account of the war.

Upon the same subject Mr. Hoover himself after the harvest of 1918 said:

It is now possible to summarize the shipments of foodstuffs from the United States to the allied countries during the fiscal year just closed—practically the last harvest year. These amounts include all shipments to allied countries for their and our armies, the civilian population, the Belgian relief, and the Red Cross. The figures indicate the measure of effort of the American people in support of allied food supplies.

The total value of these food shipments, which were in the main purchased through, or with the collaboration of the Food Administration, amounted to, roundly, $1,-400,000,000 during the fiscal year.

The shipments of meats and fats (including meat products, dairy products, vegetable oils, etc.) to allied destinations were as follows:


Fiscal year 1916—17 2,166,500,000
Fiscal year 1917—18 3,011,100,000
Increase 844,600,000

Our slaughterable animals at the beginning of the last fiscal year were not appreciably larger in number than the year before; and particularly in hogs, there were probably less. The increase in shipments is due to conservation and the extra weight of animals added by our farmers.

The full effect of these efforts began to bear their best results in the last half of the fiscal year, when the exports to the Allies were 2,133,100,000 pounds, as against 1,266,500,000 pounds in the same period of the year before. This compares with an average of 801,-000,000 pounds of total exports for the same half years of the three-year pre-war period.

In cereals and cereal products reduced to terms of cereal bushels, our shipments to allied destinations have been:


Fiscal year 1916—17 259,900,000
Fiscal year 1917—18 340,800,000
Increase 80,900,000

Of these cereals our shipments of the prime bread-stuffs in the fiscal year 1917—18 to allied destinations were: Wheat, 181,000,000 bushels and rye 13,900,000 bushels, a total of 144,900,000 bushels.

The exports to allied destinations during the fiscal year 1916—17 were: Wheat, 135,100,000 bushels and rye 2,300,000 bushels, a total of 137,400,000 bushels. In addition, some 10,000,000 bushels of 1917 wheat are now in port for allied destinations or en route thereto. The total shipments to allied countries from our last harvest of wheat will be, therefore, about 141,000,000 bushels, or a total of 154,900,000 bushels of prime breadstuffs.

In addition to this we have shipped some 10,000,000 bushels to neutrals dependent upon us and we have received some imports from other quarters. A large part of the other cereals exported has also gone into war bread.

It is interesting to note that since the urgent request of the Allied Food Controllers early in the year for a further shipment of 75,000,000 bushels from our 1917 wheat than originally planned, we shall have shipped to Europe, or have en route, nearly 85,000,000 bushels. At the time of this request our surplus was already more than exhausted.

This accomplishment of our people in this matter stands out even more clearly if we bear in mind that we had available in the fiscal year 1916—17 from net carry over and a surplus over our normal consumption about 200,000,000 bushels of wheat which we were able to export that year without trenching on our home loaf. This last year, however, owing to the large failure of the 1917 wheat crop we had available from net carry over and production and imports only just about our normal consumption. Therefore our wheat shipments to allied destinations represent approximately savings from our own wheat bread.

These figures, however, do not fully convey the volume of the effort and sacrifice made during the past year by the whole American people. Despite the magnificent effort of our agricultural population in planting a much increased acreage in 1917, not only was there a very large failure in wheat, but also the corn failed to mature properly, and corn is our dominant crop.

We calculate that the total nutritional production of the country for the fiscal year just closed was between seven per cent and nine per cent below the average of the three previous years, our nutritional surplus for export in those years being about the same amount as the shrinkage last year. Therefore the consumption and waste in food have been greatly reduced in every direction during the year.

I am sure that the millions of our people, agricultural as well as urban, who have contributed to these results, should feel a very definite satisfaction that, in a year of universal food shortage in the Northern Hemisphere, all of these people joined together against Germany have come through into sight of the coming harvest not only with health and strength fully maintained, but with only temporary periods of hardship. The European Allies have been compelled to sacrifice more than our own people, but we have not failed to load every steamer since the delays of the storm months of last winter.

Our contributions to this end could not have been accomplished without effort and matter for further satisfaction, that it had been accomplished voluntarily and individually. It is difficult to distinguish between various sections of our people-the homes, public eating places, food trades, urban or agricultural populations—in assessing credit for these results, but no one will deny the dominant part of the American woman.

But the work of the Food Administration did not come to an end with the close of the war. Insistent cries for food came from the members of the defeated Teutonic alliance, as well as from the suffering Allied and neutral nations. To meet those demands, Mr. Hoover sailed for Europe to organize the food relief of the needy nations. The State Department, explaining his mission, stated that as the first measure of assistance to Belgium it was necessary to increase immediately the volume of foodstuffs formerly supplied, so as to physically rehabilitate this under-nourished population. The relief commission during the four years of war sent to the 10,000,000 people in the occupied area over 600 cargoes of food, comprising 120,000,000 bushels of breadstuffs and over 3,000,000,000 pounds of other food-stuffs besides 20,000,000 garments, the whole representing an expenditure of nearly $600,-000,000. The support of the commission came from the Belgian, British, French and American governments, together with public charity. In addition to this some $350,000,000 worth of native produce was financed internally in Belgium by the relief organization.

The second portion of Mr. Hoover's mission was to organize and determine the need of foodstuffs to the liberated populations in Southern Europe—the Czecho-Slovaks, the Jugo-Slays, and Serbians, Roumanians and. others.

To meet the conditions in Europe following the armistice of November 11, 1918, the employment service of the United Sates set to work laying far-reaching plans for meeting the problem of world food shortage.

Abnormal drought during the summer of 1918 seriously injured the Belgian, Italian and French harvests, and appeals to the United States for help were made.

And the appeals were not in vain. America took from her granaries the cereals needed to stave off European famine. Germany was cared for as well as those nations who had been associated in arms with the United States. The demands after the war were greater than they had been during the conflict but the nation that had fed the allies of civilization in war time performed the task of feeding the world, friend and foe alike, when peace at length came upon the earth.

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