In 1945, the Allies won the war. They still had to win the peace, and food became one of the major weapons they used.
First, farmers were concerned with finding ways to avoid the horrible recession that hit them after the First World War. In the 1920s, demand for food had plummeted as formerly warring nations began to produce again. Prices for ag commodities dropped, and American farmers struggled throughout the decade. Then they went into the Great Depression. No one wanted to repeat that history.
To avoid the recession, the government’s controls on agricultural prices were extended for two years. Farmers were guaranteed the same relatively high prices that they got during the war. At the same time, the price controls at the grocery store were removed. During the war, consumers had saved up money. When the war ended, they wanted to buy things they had been going without, including food. The farm economy at home soared.
Also, over the next decade, several programs began that cemented the role of agriculture in world politics.
- Immediately after the war, private relief efforts and the new United Nations began shipping food and ag products to help Europe and the Orient rebuild their war-ravished economies and agricultural systems.
- The U.S. government then stepped in with the massive Marshall Plan. Fully 48 percent of the economic assistance it supplied to Europe was in food and fiber with tobacco and agricultural machinery accounting for additional significant contributions.
- When the Soviet Union tried to cut off Berlin from western supplies, the Berlin Airlift hauled in massive amounts of food and fuel and brought a halt to the expansion of Communist influence in Europe.
The events of the immediate postwar years shaped the future of export and import markets along with the politics of tariffs and trade.
Food became a weapon in the arsenal of capitalist and communist countries, and because of that, farmers were able to avoid the severe recession within the agricultural economy that plagued the 1920s.
Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. A partial bibliography of sources is here.