216. Memorandum From Lynn Daft of the Domestic Policy Staff to the President’s Assistant for Domestic Affairs and Policy (Eizenstat)1


  • World Hunger as a Policy Initiative

In preparation for your meeting this Tuesday2 to discuss Peter Bourne’s June 11, 1977 paper on the world hunger issue,3 here are some thoughts.

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World Hunger as an Issue

World food production is increasing faster than population, on average, yet the imbalanced distribution remains a serious problem. Between 1954 and 1975, per capita food production in South and West Asia barely held stable while in Africa it declined. As a result, many developing countries are heavily dependent on imported foods, especially grains. And current projections call for these import requirements to grow still larger by 1985. Since many of these nations will not have enough foreign exchange to fill their needs commercially, they will be dependent on some form of food aid.

In short, world hunger is an important issue and one that is likely to remain important for many years to come. Also, it is an issue that this nation is uniquely well qualified to address. And, as Bourne notes and the President remarked at the June 6th Cabinet meeting, it is somewhat of a “natural” for this Administration with its human rights emphasis.4 It is also a “natural” for the President, given his farm background. Thus, I would agree with Bourne that the issue is a prime candidate for a major policy initiative.

Activities Underway

I have serious reservations over the approaches Bourne has suggested, however. In part, these reservations stem from Bourne’s failure to relate his suggestions to a large number of activities already underway. These activities include:

• Secretary Bergland’s June 20 address before the World Food Council in Manila5 where he pledged U.S. support of an international system of grain reserves and a more reliable food aid program with greater emphasis on the use of food aid in support of development projects.

• The International Wheat Council meeting in London June 27–30 to explore a possible international grains agreement. The U.S. position was discussed at the EPG meeting of June 2.6

• A current USDA study of foreign food assistance; final recommendations to be forwarded to the President on August 15.7

• The Development Coordination Committee (chaired by AID) full scale review, under joint NSC–EPG auspices, of all development [Page 682]assistance programs, including agricultural assistance programs. The study is to be completed by September 1.8

• A development assistance study by Brookings to be completed by mid-October, commissioned by Secretary Vance.9

• An AID commissioned development study by Ed Hamilton to be completed by mid-July.

• A report to the President (delivered June 20th) by the National Academy of Sciences culminating a two-year study of how research can contribute to an improved world food and nutrition situation.10

These activities—and there are probably others I don’t know about—need to be integrated into any Administration initiative in this field. In fact, the USDA and DCC efforts should contribute importantly to laying the foundation for such an initiative.


The absence of a clear assignment of leadership on this issue is causing problems, and will cause more if it isn’t soon resolved. As you can see from the above listing of activities, USDA, AID, State, the DCC, and NSC/EPG are all proceeding down similar paths . . . and somewhat independently. The Bourne memo further suggests the possibility of direct White House involvement.

USDA wants the lead responsibility. Two arguments are offered for not giving Agriculture the lead: (1) that Agriculture’s interest is too narrowly focused on surplus disposal objectives, and (2) that U.S. foreign assistance has been designed on a country-by-country basis rather than along functional lines. The first argument is much less valid than it once was. The second argument raises a fundamental policy question that needs to be addressed. The major argument in behalf of Agriculture’s assuming the lead is simply that they are better equipped to carry-out the assignment than any other agency—an argument I find compelling.

Largely for the opposite reason, I would recommend against a major White House role. The White House staff, as you know, is not [Page 683]staffed for a task of this magnitude . . . and probably shouldn’t be. In addition, the task is a continuing one that should be organized for the long-pull rather than the quick show.

Next Steps

There are several steps that could be taken, including the following:

Clarification of the leadership responsibility. I am inclined to give USDA more of the action. Assistant Secretary Dale Hathaway is particularly well equiped for the responsibility.

Consolidation of Effort. The various activities described above need to be tied together. Whoever is given the lead responsibility in this field should also be given this charge.

Presidential Message. As a means of bringing the pieces together, we might aim for a Presidential message in the fall or winter.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Staff Office Files, Domestic Policy Staff, Eizenstat Files, Box 324, World Hunger [2]. No classification marking.
  2. June 28. See footnote 2, Document 217.
  3. See Document 213.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 212.
  5. See Document 221.
  6. No memorandum of conversation or minutes of the June 2 EPG meeting were found.
  7. See Document 223.
  8. Documentation on the DCC development assistance review is in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy. A summary of the DCC Study is attached to an undated issues paper prepared in advance of the October 11 PRC meeting. (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 65, PRC 039, 10/11/77, Foreign Assistance [1])
  9. Documentation on the Brookings Institution study—An Assessment of Development Assistance Strategies—is in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy. A summary of the study is attached to an undated issues paper prepared in advance of the October 11 PRC meeting. (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 65, PRC 039, 10/11/77, Foreign Assistance [1])
  10. See Document 212.