397. Memorandum from McGovern
to Rusk, November 21
[Facsimile Page 1]
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
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.
[Facsimile Page 2]
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
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.
[Facsimile Page 3]
Special Assistant to the
Director, Food for Peace
Use of Surplus Food for Emergency and Development
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.
(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.
[Facsimile Page 4]
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
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.
(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
[Typeset Page 1648]
(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.