Friday, August 27, 2010

Mercy Wheat Campaign

I don't know details on how farmers around my hometown area (Kittson County and Pembina County) contributed to the efforts described as the Mercy Wheat Campaign, but it's likely they did. It was  characterized as involving the entire region known as the Red River Valley of the North, the farmers in it called to supply the over 155,000,000 bushels1 of wheat to war-torn Europe and Asia after WWII.

Mercy Wheat wasn't as secret as Ferry Command at the time, but in collective memory, it's almost as elusive.  And what is so impressive about this effort was, it was citizen-driven, not government-sponsored, implemented before the Marshall Plan...

In April 1946, Arnold Amundson of Climax, Minn., led a procession of 140 farmers to the local elevator as a national kickoff for Mercy Wheat, a program by the United Nations to deliver grain to war-starved Poland. Farmers were hanging onto on to their grain, so the government offered them a 30-cent-per-bushel bonus to deliver it. NYC Mayor and UNRRA Director Fiorello La Guardia encouraged farmers to grow even more wheat to feed the countries ravaged by the war.

- From Twentieth Century in Review, Fargo Forum

1 - Trivia:  The Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association (GTA or FUGTA), a cooperative grain marketing organization of Midwestern farmers, began operations on June 1, 1938. Its origins, however, go back much farther into the nineteenth century with farmers' rebellions against low prices, mis-grading of grain, false weights, buyer collaboration, and excessive dockage and transportation costs, which resulted in their first attempts at cooperative action...The post-World War II era saw GTA make international news through its contribution of 16 million of the (ultimately) over 80 million bushels provided by the United States in the Mercy Wheat Campaign for war-ravaged Europe.

- From Minnesota Historical Society's GTA Corporation Records Collection