271. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford 1
- Results of Meeting to Review Issues in World Food Conference Speech2
In accordance with your instructions, I met with Bill Seidman, Earl Butz, Roy Ash and Treasury, State, CEA and CIEP early Saturday morning to discuss the two issues posed in Secretary Kissinger’s memorandum to you on the WFC speech.3
On the issue of announcing a world reserve target of 60 million tons, all agencies agreed on a common recommendation.
There were initially two views:
- The target figure should not be announced in the speech. The major points made in favor of this argument were: we do not know at this point whether China and the Soviets will join in a reserve program; we have not established a burden sharing formula; and we are not now sure of the rules on sales and intervention. Therefore, we should not mention a specific target at this time.
- Announcement of the target is necessary. The major points in favor of this were: It would not be credible for the US to have called a major conference, spent a year preparing for it, and now have no view on what reserve target would be necessary to provide for food security. Our major objective is to get the Europeans, Japanese and others to assume a significant share of the burden for stockpiling food for emergencies, thereby relieving us of part of the cost and responsibility. This requires that we have a reserve target at which to aim in negotiations. And it is better to negotiate toward an agreed target number for reserves rather than first negotiate intervention rules, which [Page 953]might lead to a commodity arrangement and might not result in an adequate reserve figure.
The discussions ultimately centered on whether the 60 million tons was a hard and fast figure, and to what degree it could be defended. Recognizing that announcing the 60 million ton target would imply no American commitment as to what share we would hold and would have no impact on the grain market this year, everyone agreed that putting that figure in the speech would be useful; they also agreed that we should avoid any implication that we are permanently wedded to that figure, but rather make clear that this is our current estimate—with a final figure to result from further analysis and negotiation. All parties agreed to recommend to you acceptance of the following language. "Our estimate is that as much as 60 million tons of reserves above current carry-over levels may be required." [I have queried Secretary Kissinger, and this language is acceptable to him.]
- On the issue of whether the US should pledge an increase in spending on food aid or an increase in the volume of food aid, there were major differences.
State believes that without a commitment to increase the quantity of food aid, our position at the Conference will look hollow. Reflecting Secretary Kissinger’s very strong view, State argued that the US must demonstrate its willingness to use its food resources constructively if its position in trying to get OPEC countries to use oil responsibly is to have any credibility. It emphasized that our food aid commitment will be seen as a major test of America’s willingness to resolve the global food crisis. And, it pointed out that it is likely that for political and humanitarian reasons, we will eventually go beyond last year’s quantity, so we should get credit for it at Rome.
All others at the meeting argued against going beyond your UN statement, which pledges an increase in "spending" on food aid, but not necessarily an increase in volume.4 [Last year (FY 74), the quantity of food aid was 3.3 million tons, which cost $639 million; to increase this year’s volume of food aid above that figure would, in light of increased food prices, cost roughly $978 million. This is $236 million above the FY 75 budgeted figure of $742 million.] Secretary Butz said that, in his view, announcing an increase in the quantity of food aid now could be harmful to support for food aid on the Hill and jeopardize possibilities of securing future PL 480 funds. Substantial prior consultation would be necessary if we wanted to make a commitment of this sort. Roy Ash argued that a quantity increase (increasing outlays by $236 million over planned FY 75 levels) would make it [Page 954]necessary to cut other programs in order to keep within your $300 billion outlay ceiling. Bill Seidman argued that an announcement of an increased volume would have an adverse domestic impact, would create upward pressure on food prices, and might be politically damaging on election day. Treasury opposed announcing an increase in volume on the grounds that it would have, at this point, an adverse impact on domestic food prices, and that even though we might ultimately increase food aid in light of world needs, we need not say so at this time. In summary, all agencies except State believe that we should not go beyond your UN commitment to increase food aid "spending."
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 6, Food (3). Secret; Sensitive. A note at the top of the memorandum indicates that the message was sent to the President, who spent November 2 campaigning in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wichita, Kansas. It is attached to a November 2 memorandum from Scowcroft to Cheney that reads: "When you deliver the following message to the President, would you please convey to him that, while Secretary Kissinger believes firmly in his position on levels of food aid, he does not feel the issue to be sufficiently grave as to require another interdepartmental meeting." This memorandum is also marked as having been sent. All brackets are in the original.↩
- Scowcroft’s November 2 message to Kissinger describing the meeting that day is ibid., Scowcroft Daily Work Files, Box 9, 11/1–5/74.↩
- Not found.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 264, and Document 266.↩