[Page 731]

228. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Cooper) to the President’s Special Assistant for Health Issues (Bourne)1

SUBJECT

  • Your Memorandum of August 24 to Stu Eizenstat on Food Assistance2

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on possible adjustments in our food assistance program with me.3 I am sorry to be so long in replying. I agree that relative predictability in the level of our aid is something we should strive to attain.

I can see certain problems in your suggestion, however. If we really try to stick to a policy of the Government buying five to six million tons of food a year, the cost of such a program could vary considerably with changes in prices. I would anticipate that a relatively open-ended budget commitment of this nature would be opposed by the Office of Management and Budget. On the other hand, if the floor is adjusted with harvest levels, your proposal would retain some of the defects of the present system. There also might be some objection from agricultural interests to abandoning the present method in which purchasers of PL 480 Title I commodities deal directly with private American exporters for what, I infer from your memorandum, would be a system of purchasing from the Government. Notwithstanding these difficulties, I believe your proposal has merit and it should be given further careful consideration.

We might also consider using our emergency food reserve proposal,4 which was announced after you wrote your memorandum, to stabilize PL 480 program levels. Stocks for the reserve could be accu[Page 732]mulated when American prices are low and released when prices are high and potential recipient country stocks are low. In this way, fluctuations in PL 480 program levels caused by domestic commodity price and availability swings could be minimized. The Agriculture Department is now preparing legislation to implement the reserve proposal.

The problems of world hunger and food aid levels are complex and I look forward to continued close cooperation with you on the issues involved.

Richard N. Cooper
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770173–0345. No classification marking. Drafted by Stephen Johnson on September 20; cleared by Bosworth and Boeker.
  2. An unknown hand corrected the date from August 22 to August 24.
  3. See Document 222. In a September 6 memorandum to Katz, Johnston commented upon Bourne’s proposal: “It is not clear, but seems to suggest an annual commitment for 5 or 6 million tons of grain purchases for annual food aid disbursements. The annual amount could be varied. I cannot follow the reasoning in the bottom two-thirds of the paper, and the whole thing may, in fact, be completely overtaken by the President’s decision. However, in view of Bourne’s importance in the hunger campaign, I suggest you consider drafting a memo from Cooper, commenting on this note, since Bourne is likely to resuscitate his idea later. If you think it not worthwhile, we can forget it.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770173–0347)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 225.