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Albert H. Moseman Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Albert H. Moseman

Official, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1936-1956

Independence, Missouri
June 14, 2004
by Raymond H. Geselbracht and Randy Sowell

[|Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript || List of Subjects Discussed]


This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened July, 2007
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


[Top of the Page |Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript || List of Subjects Discussed]]


Oral History Interview with
Albert H. Moseman

Independence, Missouri
June 14, 2004
by Raymond H. Geselbracht and Randy Sowell


GESELBRACHT: This is Ray Geselbracht and it is June 14, 2004. I am with Randy Sowell and we are going to interview Mr. Albert Moseman who donated his papers to the Library recently. Dr. Moseman, could you please tell us how your career got started and what it was that brought you into Mr. Truman’s administration?

MOSEMAN: Well, I was born and raised in Nebraska on a farm, and I got involved in a lot of the technical aspects of farming. My father was very progressive. He supported the 4H Clubs, and he encouraged his five sons to be active in the Baby Beef Clubs and to have other projects related to livestock—pigs, sheep and dairy animals. I was able to participate in these at a time when in the Midwest we had scholarships and fellowships that were given to farm boys and girls by the J. C. Penny Company, Sears, and Union Pacific, and so that was an incentive for us to be involved in the young people’s activities and 4H Clubs.

I went to the University of Nebraska in 1934, and I earned there a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree also in agronomy. During the years 1936 to 1940, I worked on a wheat improvement program for the Great Plains—the states from Texas into the Canadian Provinces. We were involved in improving wheat and small grains in this area. During the time I was in the wheat program, the supervisor asked if I would be interested in carrying on at Lincoln in the cooperative program with the University of Nebraska for my Master’s Degree. And that program was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the experiment stations in the Midwest. The work in the Great Plains region was interesting and I became rather curious as to what made that work so well with the federal agency and the participating experiment stations, and also I became interested in how agricultural programs of a regional nature, and then finally an international nature, were organized and operated.


When I finished my Ph.D. degree at the University of Minnesota in 1944, I was offered the position of the assistant to the chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils and Agricultural Engineering. This was referred to as “The Bureau” since it had a name that was so long. But it happened to have such a long name because the Bureau of Plant Industry, which was formed in 1903, was one of the better organized and operated research organizations in the Department of Agriculture. When the country became concerned about the pending war in 1939, the decision was made to provide more leadership for the military, for the War Department, and so the Department of Agriculture’s experiment stations at Arlington Farm were moved to a horticulture station out at Beltsville, Maryland, and the Bureau of Plant Industry had added to it the functions of soil research and research in agricultural engineering, and it became one of the largest research bureaus in government. I was brought into the headquarters at Beltsville to be involved with program planning and coordination.

During that time, I met Charles Brannan. Truman’s campaign for election in 1948 focused on the overabundance of crops and livestock products. And so we were concerned with the disposing of surpluses.

GESELBRACHT: What year are you speaking of here?

MOSEMAN: This was 1945, in that era. We had visitors at Beltsville from a number of foreign countries including Italy, where the Food and Agriculture Organization was just being established. Charles Brannan gave a talk on what we were doing to dispose of excess butter and food grains. And as we left the auditorium where Brannan spoke that day, why one of our friends from overseas said, “You people in the U.S. have a problem, but it is a beautiful problem.” But to Charlie Brannan it was not so beautiful, nor was it a beautiful problem in Mr. Truman’s opinion. They were tackling it by setting a two-price season, a scale that there were certain products that would be sold at a discount so that they could be removed from surplus stocks. And so that’s how the Brannan Plan came into being. I had the pleasure of Mr. Brannan appointing me to the position of the chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry in 1951.

When World War II came along, the Department of Agriculture had quite a number of changes. Dr. Robert M. Salter, who had been Chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, was moved over to head the Soil Conservation Service, and I was soon after named Chief of the Bureau of Tree Replacement.

GESELBRACHT: When Truman became President in April 1945 were you already working at the Department of Agriculture?

MOSEMAN: Yes I was. In 1945 I was in the Bureau of Plant Industry as an assistant to the chief of the bureau to handle the work on the coordination and program planning in that organization. And like many others in 1945, I was inherited by President Truman.


When we began to be concerned about the postwar period, with what was called the Marshall Plan and the Point Four program, I was very much involved with both of these. And so we were really involved with the recovery, the rebuilding not only of the European Countries, but also through the Point Four program into the Asian countries of the Far East.

GESELBRACHT: Were you personally involved in both those programs at different times?

MOSEMAN: Yes. In the case of the Marshall Plan, George Marshall was one of several people who were contributing to planning this kind of assistance to European countries. I think there were about three, four, or perhaps more people involved too, but Marshall was the one who put all the ideas together, so his name was on it. President Truman said the Marshall Plan succeeded because there was no jealousy among the people who contributed ideas. Marshall was recognized as the person who put it all together.

GESELBRACHT: Could you describe your involvement?

MOSEMAN: At that time I was still in the Department of Agriculture, working on research in soils, crops, engineering and so forth. We furnished people to the Marshall Plan and then also to the Point Four program.

What some people do not realize is that in addition to the Marshall Plan there was a separate group that was giving attention to the European countries, and this was headed by the European nations themselves, through the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development. I was involved in that.

In fact, in April of 1967 I attended a meeting of the OECD in Paris, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Marshall Plan, to discuss what could be done to help the European countries.

And so, I was involved in the European nations own program. Most people don’t know that that was going on—that we were working with European countries through the OECD as well as through the Marshall Plan.

GESELBRACHT: Could you describe how you got involved in the Point Four program?

MOSEMAN: I became involved in the Point Four program in 1950.

SOWELL: The Office of Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD was a product of the Marshall Plan among the European countries and it continued, as you point out, into the 1960’s. At that time, were you involved in assisting the European countries to improve their own food production? Also, was the United States trying to introduce


new methods of cultural development, based on American culture, to these countries? Or was it more a matter of repairing damage, or trying to address the effects, the physical effects of the war, or was it both?

MOSEMAN: You see, the development of the high yielding rices and wheats occurred during this period. So the European countries were interested in incorporating these new crops into their agriculture. They invited several of us who were involved with the so-called Green Revolution—with developing high yielding rice in the Philippines and high yielding wheats in Mexico, Latin America, South Asia—to this OECD meeting in 1967. And it happened that they asked me to be the chairman of the meeting, which was awkward because we were talking to European countries that had many years of experience with such similar gatherings. They had had one for rice and one that worked on corn and wheat. And they asked me to chair that meeting because our Green Revolution work was the most recent, spectacular thing, and I was supposed to know what to do.

At this first meeting, in early April 1967, we reviewed what might be considered, and I was asked to draw up a blue print, essentially identify where we should have another research institute on livestock, on different crops—to case the world to see where you should put these types of institutions. And we agreed we would have a meeting in October 1967 to give serious considerations to this new type of institution. I found that I was not in sympathy with the idea of a single American vote which determined that this was the way the world ought to be shaped up with high technology and all these different components of agriculture.

So, I prepared a report—it’s in my papers—that indicated the kinds of things that should be done, but not where they should be done. Because I figured if we laid out the kinds of things that should be done, and if the European Countries agreed that these were good things to do, they would decide where to do them. That would leave it to the European nations to decide what to do. They had some second thoughts, though, and they didn’t really come forward with options. I think that was right because the United States should not be in the position of telling the European powers where to go.

GESELBRACHT: Just to clarify, you were not in sympathy with the idea that an American would be telling these other countries what to do?

MOSEMAN: I thought that if the idea was good, that this could be done here and so on, then somebody in the European community of nations could say “We would like to do this.”

GESELBRACHT: You were telling me earlier that you were selected to go on a world-wide mission which, as I understood it, was the first step in the Point Four program. Could you describe that mission?


MOSEMAN: 1950 is when we had the first tou