"Statesmen in Overalls" is a 1951 promotional film for the Christian Rural Overseas Program, also known as C.R.O.P., an ambitious private relief effort that pre-dated the Marshall Plan in Europe.
Christian Rural Overseas Program (CROP) began its operation in August 1947 under the sponsorship of Church World Service. A year later Lutheran World Service and the Catholic Rural Life Conference became co-sponsors, but withdrew in 1952. For a time nearly all Catholic, Protestant and Lutheran church was participating in CROP. The effort saved untold numbers of lives, through the generosity of American farmers.
CROP was organized to solicit and receive bulk gifts-in-kind from American farmers during the harvest season for needy people overseas. Each cooperating state had its own director and committee who in turn worked through county and local committees. Active solicitation and collection was carried on by local church representatives on the principle of American Christians sharing with their needy brethren overseas. Gifts received were distributed through church agencies abroad among the most needy regardless of race, creed, or color.
The first large project was the Abraham Lincoln Friendship Train in 1948 which consisted of 4 sections and total of 283 cars. During the first two years of its operation, CROP collected approximately 118,000,000 pounds of farm products.
Although the Mennonite Central Committee, the official Mennonite foreign relief agency, was not a member of CROP, Mennonites in many rural areas contributed liberally to CROP collections. Most of these contributions were designated for the Mennonite Central Committee. In this indirect way Mennonite Central Committee received considerable support in its foreign relief program.
In later years this program became Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty (CROP), an interfaith hunger education and fundraising event for relief aid under Church World Service.
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