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Address Before the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

November 24, 1948

Mr. Ambassador, members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

I am delighted to be here this afternoon and to have this opportunity of meeting with the delegates of the 4th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There could be no more appropriate time for the United States to be host to a United Nations meeting than during our cherished Thanksgiving holiday.

Those of you of the Food and Agriculture Organization know the importance to nearly all nations of the harvesttime celebration. We in the United States are only one of many peoples who celebrate the gathering of the harvest each year. Other peoples have been celebrating in their own way since ancient times--and the Greek and Roman citizen, and the inhabitants of the Indian nations, and all the ancient civilizations celebrated at harvest time. But there is one feature of our Thanksgiving celebration to which I should like to call your attention.

Our Thanksgiving traditions were begun by some of the earliest settlers of this country. They thought of the Thanksgiving holiday as much more than an occasion for a big dinner, and for thanks to God that the earth had produced an abundant harvest. There was another spirit behind the first Thanksgiving dinner. The colonists invited the Indians to join with them in their celebration. Around that first Thanksgiving table, differences were forgotten, and enemies became friends.

This year our harvest is greater than it ever has been. We have much to be thankful for.

But thanks for a record-breaking harvest is only the beginning of our Thanksgiving, just as it was only a part of Thanksgiving more than 300 years ago. The real spirit of our holiday is in the sharing of this harvest, and in a feeling of warm friendship and good will for others less fortunate.

That is the same spirit in which the Food and Agriculture Organization has brought many nations together.

I know that FAO has many problems ahead of it. Perhaps I should say that the world has many food problems ahead of it, and the peoples of the world are counting on the Food and Agriculture Organization for a major part of the work in solving those problems.

One of the first and most difficult problems is the rebuilding of nations which suffered so heavily during the war.

We are making a great deal of headway through the combined efforts of many nations in the European recovery program.

But rebuilding countries that were once self-supporting and prosperous is not nearly so difficult as building up the economies of countries where there is comparatively little to build upon. Underdeveloped countries offer a challenge to the ingenuity of those nations which have greater resources.

FAO has clearly recognized the importance of this problem and the responsibility of all countries in helping to solve it.

The United States is happy to join with other countries in FAO in giving freely of our technical experiences and knowledge in the job of agricultural improvement--making grass grow where it never grew before, irrigating dry land, developing crops for special purposes, and combating crop plagues and pests. I can promise you that this country will continue to send its experts wherever FAO believes they are needed.

We have found our Agricultural Extension Service essential to a high level of farm production in our own country. Through our Extension Service, we make sure that farmers learn about the latest advances in production techniques. This means furnishing practical information and help on the farm. I know that FAO is already interested in an extension service, but I wish to emphasize that the United States stands ready to help in developing such systems in other countries.

Here in the United States, we have also learned that financial credit is as much a tool of farm production as is the plow and a bushel of seed. Our system for making agricultural credit available to farmers is one of the keystones of our great farm program. It protects every farmer in the ownership of his land and in the planting of his crops. That is why we have such hopes for the role that another international agency can play in building up the agricultural resources of underdeveloped countries. I refer to the International Bank. The credit needs of underdeveloped countries are great, however, and there is room for all kinds of help. This is a job for private lenders and cooperatives, as well as for government institutions.

The achievement of our world goal of abundant food will mean an enlarged flow of commerce in all directions.

An abundant food supply will tear down many artificial trade barriers. Some of these barriers have been erected by those who hoped for protection against low commodity prices elsewhere, but this shortsighted move has led to a slow form of trade strangulation. We must look to food as a common tool for lowering such barriers. We must look to it as a sort of international language for modifying some of the shortsighted policies which have been hampering the commerce of the world.

A few months ago, I urged the Congress of the United States to ratify the International Wheat Agreement which would have stabilized price and the volume of wheat in world trade for 5 years. Many of the nations represented here today participated in that Agreement, and many of your delegates are familiar with its provisions. I regret that this Agreement was not ratified, but I pledge that if another one can be negotiated, I will send it to the new Congress, which convenes in January, for approval. And I rather believe we will get it approved, this time.

Moreover, I look to the general pattern of the Wheat Agreement as one which might be followed for other commodities. Stability is one of the foundations of peace. National emotions too often rise and fall with the changes in commodity prices. We are counting on the Food and Agriculture Organization to remove some of the instability from farm production and farm prices all around the world, and thus to remove some of the causes of international friction.

One of the ways to restore stability to the world is to produce plenty of food and see that it is distributed fairly.

Hunger has no nationality.

Abundance should have no nationality, either.

I hope that every country, old or new, will become a member of the Food and Agriculture Organization. I should like to see that large agricultural country, Argentina, become a member. I wish that the Soviet Union would also join. I think that if we could discuss with the Russians our mutual interest in agriculture, it would not be so difficult to discuss our differences in some other fields. It is most heartening that several eastern European nations are members of FAO. I hope this will continue to be true.

I am very glad to learn that so many delegates to this session have accepted invitations of farm families near Washington to share their Thanksgiving dinners tomorrow. This is the kind of simple, human experience which makes for lasting international good will.

I hope that you will carry back to your homes our Thanksgiving spirit of thanks to God and good will to men, and I know that your American hosts will be richer for having had you as their guests. From these solid foundations of personal friendship and understanding, we can go on to build the kind of peaceful world that we all want.

And I can tell you that I personally am highly appreciative of the opportunity to come out here this afternoon and express to you the ideas and policies of the Government of the United States of America.

I hope you continue successfully, and I hope every country in the world will eventually become members of your organization.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington.