394. Letter from McGovern to Hamilton, October 71

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Dear Fowler:

I enjoyed lunching with you and Secretary Freeman on Tuesday and feel certain that together we can achieve many of the important objectives involving both the Act for International Development and the Food For Peace Program.

In President Kennedy’s State of the Union Message, reference was made to the storage of some of our agricultural abundance in national or regional food reserves abroad. In subsequent reports, I have referred to the Administration’s desire for such an off-shore storage program, which many of us feel would have substantial advantages.

The storage of part of America’s surplus in areas that periodically experience famine or food shortages because of economic and natural causes would tend to make available to hungry peoples in these areas foodstuffs when needed, rather than months later, which is often the best that can be done under a crash program. Further, off-shore storage in marginal food supply areas would have an impact on the economy, in that during periods of threatened shortages the presence of surplus foodstuffs would minimize speculative tendencies. Planned development of off-shore storage facilities would result in efficient use of shipping facilities as contracted with the difficulty of rushing significant quantities of foodstuffs to troubled areas in crises. In this connection, the impact of military need for bulk bottoms in these critical times is a significant consideration.

One problem throughout the world in connection with off-shore storage has been the availability of adequate facilities which would insure the ability to hold surplus foods over a period of time in such quality that the foodstuffs would be edible when needed. Very few consuming [Facsimile Page 2] countries in the world have adequate storage facilities, either in terms of physical space, or where such space is available, from the standpoint of rodent infestation and natural deterioration. Secretary Freeman recently stated that studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization indicate an annual loss of about 53 million tons of stored grain [Typeset Page 1635] due to infestations and inadequate handling facilities. This figure is about equal to the total volume of grains moving in world trade.

It is our thought that United States food programs would be substantially advanced if off-shore storage facilities could be developed in various countries or regions throughout the world where food shortages periodically occur. If possible, such off-shore storage should be on a regional basis although it is recognized that political factors may preclude the establishment of facilities in some areas.

In order to establish an off-shore storage program, which to date has been rather dormant, we recommend that the following steps be taken: (1) an analysis to determine which regions and countries lend themselves to off-shore storage facilities; (2) a delineation of countries where the U.S. Government has uncommitted local currencies; and (3) an immediate move toward the establishment of off-shore storage facilities in specific areas.

In order to initiate first steps to accomplish the above, it is recommended that prompt, on-the-spot surveys be conducted by a team of experts. Among the countries which might lend themselves to either country or regional off-shore storage programs would be Morocco and/or Tunisia; one or more of the West African countries; one or more East African countries, such as Kenya or Tanganyika; one or more Middle Eastern countries, such as Israel and an Arab state; one or more South American countries, such as Brazil and Chile. Consideration might also be given to a Central American country and a Southeast Asian country.

In our consideration of this proposal, we have found the advice and suggestions of Robert Nathan Associates of Washington, D.C., extremely helpful. They would be eminently well-qualified to cooperate on the survey team which might also include a Food For Peace official from AID or Agriculture, and one or two consultants.

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It has been suggested that the survey team visit Israel, Morocco, Tanganyika and/or Nigeria on the first expedition of roughly 14 days’ duration and an additional 5 days to prepare a report.

If this proposal meets with your approval, an estimated budget and transportation arrangements can be prepared.

In view of the importance of this project and the fact that no specialized exploratory work has yet been done, I would hope that a survey team could be dispatched within the next few weeks.

Sincerely yours,

George McGovern
Special Assistant to the President
Director, Food For Peace
  1. Food for Peace: Off-shore food storage proposal/survey team. No classification marking. 4 pp. Washington National Records Center, RG 286, AID Administrator Files: FRC 65 A 481, Food for Peace, FY 1962.