OUR CRISIS OF MAY 1917
On taking office as United States Food Administrator, I was confronted with an extremely discouraging situation concerning American supplies of food, the result of drought in our 1917 harvest, and the fact that all of our surplus from the 1916 harvest had already been exhausted. Consequently, we had no statistical surplus to export to anybody. Furthermore, because of the torpedoing of our ships, our C.R.B. transport was almost paralyzed. We were now dependent for ships on our small Belgian-flag ships and neutral charters. But the neutrals avoided charters to us. Aside from their charters to the Allies and beyond their own needs for imported supplies, they had four million tons of ships, most of them used in commercial traffic over the world. We determined to bring pressure on them to furnish us with the minor tonnage we needed.
On May 26, I wrote to Secretary of State Lansing about the neutrals' obligation to help us:
DEAR MR. LANSING:
As you are . . . aware, the Belgian Relief Commission is delivering about 60,000 tons of foodstuffs per month and it requires shipping to handle an additional 40,000 tons per month.
. . . you . . . have particulars from the British Embassy as to the amount of Swedish, Dutch, and Spanish shipping which is available over and above the needs of those countries. . . .
. . . I also understand that various neutrals are making inquiries here as to whether their food supply will be cut off under the embargo.