Will There Be Postwar Surpluses?

Summing up the pros and cons, we find that many agricultural authorities believe that the outlook for the farmer is not bright. The problem of agricultural surpluses may arise in from two to four years after the war’s end—or when lend-lease and relief needs substantially drop off. These surpluses will probably be somewhat different from the surpluses that plagued us in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Instead of granaries loaded to the eaves with wheat, cotton, corn, and other nonperishables, we are likely to have surpluses of pork, butter, cheese, and so on, which cannot keep very long.

This fear of postwar farm surpluses is widespread. The War Food Administration, which procures food for the lend-lease program and for the armed forces, is planning—if Congress authorizes it—to get rid of its huge reserve stocks after the war by selling some in this country, distributing some to needy persons, and selling the rest overseas, probably at a loss. By the end of 1944, lend-lease shipments of food had dropped sharply. When the war in Europe ends, England, as a means of unifying the Empire, will tend to draw food supplies from its dominions and colonies instead of the United States; the Soviet Union will be able to supply its own needs for most agricultural products.

The future of agriculture, however, as of other industries and trade, is a question mark only because we cannot be sure what economic conditions will be like after the war. That farmers will be given considerable help by government action is a reasonable guess. Congress has declared that agricultural prices must be supported through federal subsidies, loans, crop purchases, and the like, for two years after the war, if farmers will elect to restrict production. Everything possible will doubtless be done to put a floor under farm prices and prevent their sudden collapse.

Taking all things into consideration, the future of farming in this country is closely tied up with general economic conditions. If industrial activity and foreign trade stay at high levels, farmers will surely share in the general prosperity.