424. Editorial Note

On February 2, 1970, Henry Kissinger, responding to a Presidential query, sent the President an action memorandum with options on how meat prices might be reduced through increased imports. Option 1 was to increase imports under the voluntary restraint program closer to the 1,100 million pound trigger point for mandatory quotas. Option 2, which Kissinger recommended, was to apply mandatory quotas at a [Page 1045] much higher level, perhaps 1,200 to 1,300 million pounds. Option 3 was to waive quotas on meat imports altogether, which the Agriculture Department predicted would increase imports to about 1,400 million pounds in the total absence of any controls, and almost certainly assured a major battle with the domestic producers and their Congressional supporters and a drive for tight quota legislation. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 351, Meat Import Policy)

On January 27 the President had met with Senator Fannin and members of the National Cattlemen’s Association in the Cabinet Room from 4:10 to 4:42 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Senator Fannin left the meeting at 4:20 p.m.

On February 2 the President met with Secretary Hardin, Don Paarlberg, Bryce Harlow, John Whitaker, and John Ehrlichman from 3:10 to 4:10 p.m. (Ibid.) Kissinger and Fred Bergsten joined the meeting at 3:44 p.m. and Ehrlichman and Kissinger stayed on to 4:14 p.m. Fred Bergsten’s memorandum of that conversation reveals the President’s interest in increased meat imports to lower meat prices and Hardin’s opposition. Hardin said wholesale prices were down, but retail prices had not followed due to the policies of the retail organizations. The President indicated his willingness to “jawbone” the retailers and thought McCracken should participate. Hardin said he was working for the farmers on that issue, a point the President took but said it had to be seen in a larger context that kept consumers in mind. “The President concluded that we should note publicly that he had met with the cattlemen and had learned that retail prices had Ônot been reflected in what the consumer pays’.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 196, Agriculture, Volume I 1969-1970) The discussion then turned to East-West trade; see Document 313.

On Kissinger’s February 2 action memorandum to the President, the “No Action” option is checked, followed by a handwritten date of February 3. A handwritten note by David Young accompanying Kissinger’s memorandum indicates that “Actions taken are marked in pencil on information from Bergsten who has done a follow up memo as result of meeting,” presumably a reference to Bergsten’s memorandum of the February 2 conversation.