280. Minutes of an International Food Review Group Meeting1


  • Follow-on to World Food Conference


  • Chairman
    • Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Robert Ingersoll
    • Thomas Enders
  • Treasury
    • Stephen Gardner
    • Howard Worthington
  • Agriculture
    • Earl Butz
    • Richard Bell
  • OMB
    • Roy Ash
    • Donald Ogilvie
  • CEA
    • Alan Greenspan
  • CIEP
    • William Eberle
    • Amb. Harald Malmgren
  • EPB
    • William Seidman
  • NSC
    • Robert Hormats
    • James Barnum


It was agreed that:

  • —The Working Group would flesh out the U.S. proposals at the World Food Conference for an Exporters Group, a Reserve Group, and other such organizations, and submit its recommendations to the Review Group for discussion in two to three weeks.

Secretary Kissinger: First of all, let me explain what I think are the foreign policy interests in the food problem. My hope is that by explaining our foreign policy interests, it will help us in our later considerations. I think that one of the basic strategies we should pursue—what we want to create—is an overall statement of policy toward the food problem in relations to us and in the face of contingencies in the energy and food fields. In my view, systematic planning is one way—probably the only way—that we can get this food problem solved. I think it was a tragedy that the World Food Conference got off onto food aid and did not stick to planning. I wish now that we would have [Page 970] played down the food aid thing. In my view, the answer to the food problem is a systematic approach toward production, stockpiling and so forth.

Secretary Butz: There is no other answer.

Secretary Kissinger: I think that for us to have gotten into a debate in Rome over who should be giving what was a pity. The basic theme—the basic problem as I see it from a foreign policy viewpoint—is that the food problem is a structural problem of the world economy. And, I think we should correlate our solutions with other countries. One of our major contributions is going to be aid, there is no doubt about that. But, in my opinion, I think it a pity that so many countries are obsessed with this food aid thing. They are off the track.

My main purpose for this meeting is to get a basic realignment of our fundamental objectives. I think we should fight on food aid. Don’t get me wrong. I think we have to participate in aid, but I think it should be treated as a subsidiary problem, not the main one. We have to create the impression in the world that what we say counts. This is very important. In my view, we need, number one, to create a Food Exporters Group. Now I know this is going to create problems—especially from the Europeans.

Secretary Butz: Canada and Australia have reservations also. Secretary Kissinger: But they have indicated an interest in partial participation, haven’t they?

Mr. Enders: Yes, they are willing to participate to some extent.

Secretary Kissinger: We also need to get them involved in some sort of Reserves Group. We need some programs in that field. Where does fertilizer fit into the picture?

Mr. Enders: We have made some headway on the Fertilizer Institute. It’s coming along.

Secretary Kissinger: When I was talking to the Shah (of Iran) during my last trip,2 he indicated an interest in a regional fertilizer bank. He even said that he is willing to finance such a thing. Can this be pursued?

Mr. Enders: In our consideration of that, the major question that arose was the desirability, from a national security standpoint, of creating a fertilizer industry in the Middle East. You run up against the problem of regional control over two key industries. It’s a question of having two monopolies in the Middle East.

[Page 971]

Secretary Kissinger: I would not want us to join in the creation of a fertilizer and oil monopoly in the Middle East. That would not be in our interest.

Secretary Butz: That would be bad, but the trouble is that nitrogen (for the fertilizer) is where the oil is. I think that the major thrust of our policy should be technical assistance. I think that fertilizer is only one of half a dozen or so issues that all fit under the overall term of technical assistance.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree, and that is essentially what I mean. What are your views, Earl (Secretary Butz)?

Secretary Butz: On the World Food Conference?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.

Secretary Butz: Well, I think it is unfortunate that food aid got out of hand. Actually, it was only a few of the countries that got hold of it and blew it way out of proportion. The follow-through (subsequent meetings) was good, though. There was some real work done there. I think we ought to get organized on technical assistance. That’s where the emphasis should be. Now, we still have to face this problem of food aid—we’re on the hook for that—but the emphasis should be on technical assistance.

Secretary Kissinger: Don’t get be wrong. I am for the high option on the food aid package, but I don’t believe that aid deserves the relative importance it received.

Secretary Butz: The level of food aid is a problem, and we have to solve it this year. We’re on the hook.

Secretary Kissinger: Do you have your budget yet?

Secretary Butz: Yes, we have $730 million for food aid. We won’t ship that much, though. I have the mechanisms available to me to exceed the budget, but it’s a cash outlay, and that’s a problem. You know, we’ve made a commitment of wheat for Sadat3 (Egypt) that we have to fulfill. We’ve made other commitments as well. We just have to face up to these commitments.

Secretary Kissinger: (To Mr. Ash) I understand you have a proposal on food aid ready to go forward for the rest of the year. Is that right?

Mr. Ash: Yes, we will be developing that at a meeting on Friday.4

Secretary Kissinger: We need a strategy for exporting countries, we need nutritional programs …

[Page 972]

Mr. Bell: On this question of exporters, can you explain what you mean?

Secretary Kissinger: Well, take a finite number of exporters—say five—they all face a common problem. What I’m talking about is that they could draw up plans for foreseeable demand, and then they will have something on which to plan for longer term basis.

Mr. Bell: Then you are thinking more in the long term.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. I know the exporters are worried about the availability of grains now and for next summer. I’m thinking of their needs in the longer term.

Mr. Enders: I think what the Secretary is saying is that the exporters need to develop a sense of the gap between the volume of trade and the volume of production. There is going to be a shift of power to those countries that are exporters.

Secretary Butz: It’s not a simple problem. In Rome, some of those countries were looking for two million tons of wheat here and there. Canada is going to furnish some. The financing of exports is a separate problem. We can’t disassociate ourselves from the financial aspects.

Secretary Kissinger: I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that the exporters should have some plan in relation to needs. If financing is needed, then okay. There needs to be a common strategy.

Mr. Bell: In 1975 their common strategy is all-out production. Secretary Butz: Has there been any follow-up on this question of common strategy?

Mr. Bell: Not really.

Secretary Kissinger: Based on our experience in the energy field, there is going to be complete resistance to a common strategy. What I’m thinking of is that maybe, in the beginning, there will only be common data banks. If you don’t have something like this, you get total fragmentation.

Mr. Bell: We do have data banks already.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I do have to confess that my proposals at the World Food Conference were based on an overall strategy. Let’s get the Working Group together to put some meat on these proposals and then the Review Group will meet later, say in a couple weeks. Agreed?

Secretary Butz: Agreed.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Files of NSC Logged Documents, Box 53, NSC “NS” Originals File, 7405985—Minutes of International Food Group Meeting, December 4, 1974. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Kissinger visited Iran from November 1 to 3.
  3. Anwar al-Sadat was President of Egypt.
  4. December 6. See Document 281.