397. Memorandum from McGovern to Rusk, November 21

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With reference to multilateral food surplus programs and the United Nations system, two fundamental questions have been raised:

1. Should the United States commit itself in the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly to a large program involving several hundred million dollars in surplus commodities to be used for economic development purposes.

2. Should any such program operate through the U.N. Special Fund or primarily through the Food and Agriculture Organization.

After considering these questions, I have reached the conclusion that the United States should not commit itself this year to a multilateral U.N. food distribution effort which goes beyond the offer which I made on behalf of the United States at the FAO Advisory Committee meeting in Rome last April.

That offer, announced by President Kennedy on April twenty-second, would commit the United States to contribute $40 million in commodities toward an initial multilateral fund of $100 million in commodities and cash with the FAO playing the major programming role in cooperation with the United Nations system. This initial effort would be limited largely to famine or other emergency needs with pilot activities in child-feeding and labor-intensive projects.

My conclusion is based on the following factors:

1. It is not clear that the United Nations system would more effectively execute large food programs than is now the case with our bilateral programs.

2. The initial proposal put forth at the April meeting in Rome is admittedly small, but it is large enough for us to test the effectiveness of the multilateral approach.

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3. We have little indication of real support for a substantial multilateral program on the part of other nations.

4. There is clear evidence that powerful Congressional opposition would develop if we were to use at this time the authority of P.L. 480 for a large commitment of U.S. commodities through the U.N. system. [Typeset Page 1646] Such opposition may develop even to the $40 million offer, but the chances are much better of winning Congressional support for this more modest proposal.

If the United States were to offer a much larger commitment in the General Assembly this year, Congress might amend existing authority to prevent any kind of multilateral action.

Attached is a background summary of the issue prepared in the State Department for an interagency discussion in Under Secretary Ball’s office on October twenty-fifth.

I would appreciate learning as soon as possible your reaction to the above conclusion so that I can discuss the various alternative possibilities with the President.

George McGovern
Special Assistant to the President
Director, Food for Peace
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Background Summary

Use of Surplus Food for Emergency and Development Purposes
through Multilateral Channels (FAO and UN)

1. $100 million proposal for the use of surplus food through the FAO primarily for emergency purposes.

Broad agreement has been reached on the staff level in the Department and with Agriculture and AID on a Position Paper (attachment 1) regarding this $100 million proposal which, in the first instance, and omitting details, was submitted last April to the FAO by Mr. McGovern. The proposal provides for pledges of grant surplus food and a small cash component to be used primarily for emergency needs, with lesser employment for child feeding and pilot labor-intensive development projects. Such projects would be confined to agricultural development, such as irrigation schemes, reforestation, etc. The FAO would be primarily responsible for the administration and operation of the program. UN cooperation would be assured by the requirement that the development aspects of any projects would be elaborated by the FAO in agreement with the Managing Director of the Special Fund; by the assignment of a few development specialists from the UN to the FAO staff in Rome; and by giving ECOSOC a review function regarding these development components.

Mr. McGovern’s statement committed the U.S. to provide $40 million in commodities, with the possibility of a supplementary cash con[Typeset Page 1647]tribution to be explored in Washington. In the course of the review of the position paper on the staff level, the point was made that any 40% limitation on the U.S. commodities contribution to the program would probably make the proposal unworkable and might result in its rejection by the FAO.

Required Action:

(a) Approval in broad outlines of the above proposal.

(b) A decision as to whether, possibly after Congressional consultations, any specific percentage limitation on contributions of surplus food need to be imposed.

2. Larger program (possibly up to $400 million) for the use of surplus food through the UN for development purposes.

Suggestions for such a larger program were made by the Director-General of FAO and have been actively considered in the U.S. government for some time. The possibility of such a larger program has been widely discussed in UN circles and was referred to by Mr. Klutznick in his speech of October 5 in Committee 2 of the General Assembly on the UN Decade of Development.

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The issue will formally arise in the General Assembly when the Assembly takes up Item 28(e) “Provision of Food Surpluses to Food Deficient Peoples Through the UN System”, probably toward the end of November.

To date no agreement has been reached in the U.S. government on this subject. It was impossible to reach agreement even in principle on whether the U.S. should advance in the General Assembly such a larger program, and further consideration of a Position Paper on that subject (attachment 2) was deferred pending such agreement in principle.

The larger program would place the emphasis on the use of food for general development purposes (not agriculture alone). Major responsibility for the operation of the program would be shifted to the UN Special Fund, although the FAO would continue to be responsible for the survey of food needs and for assuring the application of FAO principles for surplus disposal in order that ordinary commercial trade will not be impaired. Local currencies derived from the sale of surplus food in any given country would be used for development projects by that country under agreement between the Special Fund and the country concerned. In the discussion of the proposal a great many possible variants were advanced as regards details of the organization of the program, its operation and administration.

Required Action:

(a) A decision of principle as to whether the U.S. Delegation to the General Assembly should be authorized to propose a larger program for the multilateral use of food surpluses for development purposes.

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(b) If this decision is affirmative, an authorization to proceed with the elaboration of a detailed plan in the light of the discussion in the meeting.

  1. Multilateral food surplus programs and the UN system. Official Use Only. 4 pp. Washington National Records Center, RG 286, AID Administrator Files: FRC 65 A 481, Agriculture, FY 1962.