236. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


This paper is divided into three sections. The first gives background on the world food crisis and our policy response to it. The second describes the current food situation and problems, while the third gives the thrust of future policy and provides some themes for a possible Presidential speech.

Some conclusions we reach include the following: 1) the direction of the international food policies we are implementing remains valid; 2) a new world hunger campaign probably is not justified, given the lack of effective solutions and the risk of over promising; 3) a Presidential speech on food and hunger may be desirable, however and 4) we [Page 751]should use a food and hunger initiative to develop public and Congressional support for increased ODA.

Section I

World Food Crisis

Food became a prominent international issue and a major theme in North-South relations as a result of the 1972–74 world food crisis. That crisis brought especially harsh consequences for the developing world. Commercial grain and food supplies contracted, sharply driving up prices to levels that eliminated many poorer countries from the market. Badly needed concessional food aid flows also dried up during this period; donor countries could not sustain food aid levels in the face of short supplies and rising prices. The threat of widespread starvation appeared a real one.

Responding to these events, the United States took the initiative to call for and organize the 1974 United Nations World Food Conference.2 There, agreement was reached on resolutions which established an integrated and comprehensive framework dealing with production, consumption and distribution aspects of the world food problem. (See Tab A) The major conclusions of the Conference, in summary, were that a) food deficits for many of the poorer developing countries could only be met through increased domestic agricultural production, and increased Official Development Assistance (ODA) should be directed toward this objective; b) an international system of nationally held grain reserves should be established to offset the impact of future short supply situations; c) increased food aid is needed in the short term to address immediate food aid needs; and d) agricultural trade should be liberalized to expand production and exports. These conclusions, in addition to providing a basis for international action on food and hunger, represent the backdrop for recent U.S. food policies.

U.S. Policy Response

The United States moved quickly to frame and implement a policy responsive to the thrust of these conclusions. United States bilateral and multilateral assistance for agricultural and rural development has been doubled. AID presently targets approximately 55% of its bilateral assistance into the agricultural sectors of recipient countries. The United States also has given strong backing to multilateral food and agriculture institutions; for example, supporting FAO and seeking rapid establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Develop[Page 752]ment.3 US food aid levels have been increased to more than six million tons annually in recent years. This is 60% of the 10 million ton global food aid target endorsed by the Conference. Recently, the United States agreed to participate in the World Food Program’s 500,000 Emergency Food Reserve and to increase its pledge to the WFP.4 US food aid programs also have been made more developmentally effective. To increase world food security, the United States has formulated proposals for an international grains reserve system. In the trade area, the U.S. is actively pressing for broad based trade liberalization at the MTN negotiations in Geneva. Its GSP system offers a wide range of new export opportunities to developing countries.

Section II

The Current Situation

The world does not face a major problem of world hunger or starvation today; favorable weather and good harvests in most parts of the world over the last several years have replaced the shortages and hunger of 1973–74. Large grain stocks are building up in the US and other major grain producers (including India). However, the world food system remains a fragile one, where low stocks and only slight drops in production can send grain prices sky rocketing, as was proven in 1972–1973 when world grain production fell by only 2%. Thus, while grains supplies are plentiful now, and prices relatively low and stable, even a small drop in production, as could happen in an exceptional year, could lead once again to problems of hunger and starvation particularly if stocks prove inadequate or are ineffectively controlled.

Problems of world hunger remain deeply enmeshed in the broader issues of world poverty and income distribution. Rapidly growing populations increase the need for expanding food production and distribution. An inadequate social and physical infra-structure prevents the operation of an efficient and low cost food distribution system. Agricultural pricing policies in developed and developing countries alike often discourage an expansion of food production and efficient world trade in agriculture. In addition, a number of regional problems exist, such as the fragile and deteriorating ecosystems in many countries (e.g. the Sahelian countries which face an ever expanding desert) where food deficits are most pronounced; or over population in other countries (e.g. the Andes) where land tenure systems and the climate limit increases in agricultural production.

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There are encouraging aspects to the current world food picture, however. Higher priority is being assigned to food problems, both in developing country planning and in development assistance programs from bilateral and multilateral institutions. Also, a higher degree of genuine agreement over the sources of food problems and the best means for dealing with them has been reached in a long series of discussions between developed and developing countries. Furthermore, there is heightened domestic and international understanding of long term structural food problems, including the growing food gap in the poorest developing countries, and awareness that another crisis could occur on short notice.

There also are new and encouraging steps which the world community is taking to deal with new factors of world hunger. These include, for example, increased global awareness of the food/population problem and of the degradation of the land and resource base, reflected in recent United Nations Global Conferences on Food, Population, Water and Desertification;5 new “action plans” approved by nations at the Water and Desertification Conferences; and ever improving institutional and technological capabilities to apply to problems, e.g. international agricultural research institutions, evolution of the Sahel Development Program, new monitoring and assessment capabilities for food production and disease detection etc. (satelite remote sensing), and new varieties of drought resistant crops, food storage and preservation techniques, land management systems etc. These recent developments hold promise for the future.

Hunger Problems

It’s clear from the above that a wide range of problems needs to be addressed in attacking world hunger and malnutrition. A list of the most important of these might include the following:

—Increasing food production worldwide, but particularly in food deficit developing countries. Developing country food production increases in recent years have exceeded the 4% target agreed to for the United Nations Second Development Decade.6 This favorable performance, however, must be attributed primarily to favorable weather conditions, rather than to basic underlying reforms. Inadequate economic [Page 754]and political policies and conditions still prevent sustained food output increases in many developing countries, and in addition reduce private and public investment flowing to agriculture. There also are other constraints to expanded food output in developing countries which must be overcome such as inadequate management and shortage of trained manpower, capital shortages, inadequate and inappropriate technology, substantial post harvest losses due to inadequate storage facilities, and productivity losses due to people debilitated by hunger and disease.

—Dealing effectively with problems of under consumption and malnutrition. Though there is at present no widespread famine in the world, many millions of people (estimates range between 400 million and one billion) do not have an adequately nutritional diet. Underlying this problem is the issue of effective demand among groups of people and individual countries. We have learned that economic growth and prosperity does not necessarily produce additional benefits for the poorer members of society, including access to necessary food supplies. While the problem is focused in the poorer developing countries, it is worldwide in scope, existing often in large pockets in middle income LDC’s and in rich countries as well.

—Feeding the hungry and malnourished requires significantly improved food distribution systems both among countries and within the poorer developing nations. The food crisis of 1972–1974 evidenced many instances of localized famine in countries and regions where adequate food supplies were available, but inadequate transport systems made it impossible to deliver the food where it was needed most. Improved distribution systems mean not only getting more food to the neediest, but also ensuring better food supply/demand balance locally and regionally. Unless food imports are kept in reasonable balance with local production and purchasing power, domestic food prices and agricultural incentives may be reduced. We need to carefully review the level of our food aid and other food exports and seek to establish internal programs in recipient countries to increase productivity, purchasing power, and demand prior to and along with the arrival of imported food.

—Restraining excess population growth rates which represent a threat to long term food supply/demand balance. In this connection, responsible population growth control programs are required. Based on current growth rates, the world’s population will double to 8 billion people by 2010. Feeding this many people will be extremely difficult, with a possibility of widespread famine in years of bad harvests. Since about 80% of the projected population growth will occur in developing countries, the population problem will be compounded, even more than today, by distribution problems.

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—Developing flexible policies to deal with the wide range of problems and situations faced by developing countries in meeting their food requirements. Some developing countries already have sufficient supplies and expected foreign exchange earnings to purchase all the food imports they are likely to need. Another group of countries can attain this position with a modicum of help. For some, increased agricultural development assistance can expand food production, others would benefit most from reduced trade barriers, while still others need help such as liberal credits to finance imports in short supply years. An effective U.S. and international food strategy must deal meaningfully with all these varied situations and needs.

—Finally, continuing efforts to deal intelligently and effectively with other factors affecting world hunger such as accelerating worldwide losses of arable land from mismanagement of the resource base (deforestation, over-grazing, soil erosion, salination etc.), the rising cost of chemicals and raw materials required by agriculture, and limitations on water for agriculture imposed by growing competition among nations and regions for surface and ground water.

Section III

Future Policy Evolution

We believe the broad thrust of the food policies we initiated several years ago remains valid. If the third world is to feed itself and accelerate its development through agriculture, the course followed must concentrate on a mix of agricultural development programs, increased Official Development Assistance and trade liberalization. These policies must be dynamic ones, however, adjusting to present conditions and responding effectively to contemporary problems. The future direction of our food policies is designed to do this.


We continue to seek a viable international reserve system to stabilize prices and promote supply security. In the London talks, the United States has proposed the establishment of an internationally coordinated system of nationally-held reserve stocks, shared among all major grain trading countries.7 The reserve system operations, activated by movements of world wheat prices, would stabilize international prices and improve food security by shifting grain supplies for[Page 756]ward from years of excess supply to years of scarcity, and thereby provide a form of world food insurance against the unpredictable occurrences of major crop failure and adverse weather. In addition to specific obligations for reserve stocks, the United States suggested framework would also provide for the correction of adverse market conditions through such measures as the elimination of trade barriers and adjustments in the amounts of wheat fed to animals. To provide for U.S. participation in the international system, and to handle other emergency food requirements, the Administration will soon submit to Congress new legislation establishing a domestic emergency reserve of up to 6 million tons of grains.

Food Aid

A major element in this comprehensive policy for greater food security is the assurance of adequate and timely food assistance to the poorest parts of the developing world. To meet this objective, the United States has called for the negotiation of a new Food Aid Convention within the context of an International Wheat Agreement.8 The new convention should ensure the availability of food assistance at not less than 10 million tons on an annual basis, in accordance with the recommendation of the World Food Council. Donating countries would also take steps to improve the effectiveness of food aid flows, to improve coordination and to promote efficiency in domestic production in recipient countries. The Administration also is continuing efforts to improve the developmental effectiveness of PL 480 food aid programs. This is being done, inter alia by a) seeking rapid implementation of long term Title III Food for Development programs b) considering new mechanisms to assure more dependable food aid programming and c) improving donor co-ordination of food aid programs in support of development objectives. We also should examine the possibility of providing food aid counter cyclically to offset crop shortfalls in LDC’s and thereby relieve pressure on scarce foreign exchange resources.


The United States has a variety of policies aimed at helping LDC’s to expand their exports, which they must do if they are to earn the foreign exchange necessary to finance the large quantity of imports pro[Page 757]jected for the next decade. These policies include the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and the current MTN negotiations,9 aimed at reducing trade barriers generally and in particular for products of importance to LDC’s. At the MTN, the United States will continue to press for the multilateral reduction of tariffs and non-tariff barriers—including agricultural products of particular interest to developing countries. In this connection, liberalization of trade barriers by the LDC’s themselves would not only in many cases make agricultural imports cheaper and more available, but could also in some instances encourage policies more favorable to agriculture. We also should consider whether additional agricultural commodities of particular interest to developing countries could be added to our GSP offer.


In this area, the Administration has determined that a substantial increase in our Official Development Assistance is required to meet our international commitments and to contribute more effectively to development. The “new directions” aid effort seeks to foster economic growth with equity, and to meet Basic Human Needs of the neediest members of society.10 Particularly high priority is being given to increasing ODA flows to agriculture. In this connection, two areas for possible additional emphasis are the following:

Developing the knowledge and techniques for greater agricultural productivity world-wide. Agricultural experts have been troubled for some time at the apparent slowdown in productivity gains in agriculture and believe there is a strong case for greater government finance of basic research in this area. (This was also a conclusion of the recent World Food and Nutrition Study.)11 Delivering the research to LDCs. This involves the time consuming task of adapting research improvements made in the U.S. to conditions in individual countries or regions within countries abroad. A number of LDCs do not even have the agricultural facilities to undertake efforts at adaption. Perhaps the 1979 Science and Technology Conference could focus on improving the delivery of agricultural technology to LDC’s and facilitate its adaption there.

United Nations Efforts

US support for United Nations and other multilateral institutions operating in the area of food and agriculture is being increased. Particular attention is being focused on the FAO in view of the key role which this institution plays in agricultural development efforts. The U.S. also [Page 758]continues to give full support and encouragement to IFAD which will channel additional resources to priority agricultural projects. In the future, the US may want to give added priority to international activities dealing specifically with new measures to protect and sustain the natural resource base on which food production depends over the longer term.

Focus on Malnutrition

An attack on malnutrition is one possible focus for a new world hunger initiative. While not entrirely new, higher priority and emphasis on malnutrition would be consistent with our aid strategy of addressing basic human needs in all countries and should enjoy popular support in the United States. Following are some elements which might be included under a malnutrition focus:

1) Involving recipient governments to a greater extent in nutrition intervention programs, with the objective of having these governments eventually take over entirely these programs. There might be especially promising prospects of the US acting as this sort of catalyst in middle-income LDCs with pockets of malnutrition (e.g., Brazil; and its northeast states) where governments could be expected to take over their own feeding programs in the near future.

2) Expanding the delivery of high protein blended foods to target groups. (The U.S. now provides nearly one million tons per year of grain and other foods for nutrition intervention programs as part of its Food for Peace Title II program). This would require greater cooperation with private voluntary agencies which now manage most of U.S. supported nutrition intervention programs abroad. It would also lend itself to training and utilizing locally available labor, thus minimizing the American presence in the field.

3) Developing targets for the improvement of nutritional levels. As a pilot project of this sort, we might want to concentrate on particular countries and especially vulnerable groups (pregnant and lactating mothers and children under 4) in those countries.

4) Transferring available technology and providing necessary financing to LDCs for developing their own high protein blended foods, based on locally available grains and other agricultural products. These countries would then avoid having to rely totally on importing such foods (often at relatively high unit prices and costly in foreign exchange) from the US.

5) Ensuring that the necessary infrastructure for nutrition intervention programs—particularly in remote areas—is adequate. Required are transport facilities, vehicles, storage, and distribution and cooking facilities.

6) Combining nutrition intervention programs with education in family planning. (This is already done to some extent; any expansion in nutri[Page 759]tion intervention programs should be accompanied by expansion of family planning wherever possible.) Education in improving general health and nutrition standards would also be important.

A program attacking malnutrition problems at home and abroad does involve a number of difficulties which should be carefully considered. For example, such a program can be quite expensive in terms of donor and recipient resources per unit of food delivered. It is particularly costly in terms of labor and administration. Many LDC governments have assigned a low priority to fighting malnutrition in their countries and it may be difficult to persuade them to allocate their own scarce resources to fighting malnutrition. Finally, nutrition intervention programs, while responding to improving Basic Human Needs, may make less a contribution to recipient country economic development than traditional AID activities with a heavier investment orientation.

Money Is Needed

The policies outlined above represent an integrated and cohesive effort to deal with world hunger and malnutrition problems. They seek to deal with global and national agricultural production, distribution and consumption, broader development issues, international food trade, food reserves and short and long run food aid. They also include concurrent efforts in other areas such as population growth control, maintenance of the global resource base, new energy and resource saving production techniques and inputs and improvements in local science, technology, extension and management capabilities (particularly in the poorer countries).

Effective programs in all these areas require money which Congress will be reluctant to provide. In this connection, a hunger initiative could usefully be turned to our advantage. Funds to support it should be more easily forthcoming. We believe, in particular, that Congress would be more willing to support increased AID appropriations linked to this objective. We hope this important connection will be made and maintained by the Administration.

A World Hunger Campaign

While it may appear attractive, our tentative conclusion is that a major World Hunger Campaign probably is not desirable. Although reserving judgment, we doubt that the Working Group will be able to develop genuinely new initiatives providing effective solutions to the difficult food problems we face. There is the risk of over promising, with subsequent disillusionment over results. In addition, we see a distinct threat that such a campaign could lead directly to confrontation with the Administration’s human rights efforts i.e. do we assist hungry people in Uganda.

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A Presidential Speech

On the other hand, an effective speech by the President on the theme of world hunger and malnutrition could be very useful. In particular, it could serve to pull together and explain our food policies for the Congress and public. This would greatly help to win support for new resources to support them. Some possible themes for a speech are suggested below:

Focus on Malnutrition

—Emphasize the importance of attacking problems of malnutrition at home and abroad. Explain what the Administration is doing in this area.


—Emphasize planned increases in ODA levels and link them to the solution of world food and hunger problems. Explain that US ODA as a percent of GNP is low and should be raised to appropriate international levels.

—Build on the “Basic Human Needs” concept, relating ODA increases to helping the poorest and neediest. The overall thrust should be to remove constraints which prevent food from reaching the individuals who need it.


—Dramatize the point that no solution will endure unless we can bring food production into balance with population growth and a sustainable natural resources base. Specifically highlight both the need for appropriate population policies to reduce current population growth rates; and the need to maintain the long-term productive capacity of the land and associated natural resources.

Food Reserves

—Indicate that the United States is negotiating a new international wheat agreement including an international security grain reserve component. Urge all countries to adopt the political will and flexibility necessary for a successful conclusion.

—Explain how the international reserve system would benefit all countries, but particularly the developing nations, by stabilizing price fluctuations, assuring security of food supply and reducing trade barriers.

—Emphasize the importance of the emergency food reserve bill which the Administration will soon present to Congress. Explain its dual purpose i.e. to offset emergency food shortages in developing [Page 761]countries and to provide for US participation in a new international security grain reserve system.

Food Aid

—Announce U.S. support for a new Food Aid Convention including a 10 million ton minimum obligation for annual food aid flows.

—Emphasize U.S. efforts to increase the developmental priority and effectiveness of its food aid programs. Cite the usefulness of multi-year Title III food aid programs to support long term agricultural development efforts.

Food Research and Technology

—Cite U.S. commitment to strengthening the international science and technology base, particularly as it applies to LDCs, through support for international agricultural institutes, FAO and UNEP efforts, OECD food activities, Sahel Development Program.

—Announce intention to give higher priority to LDC oriented research on improved food production techniques and methods within US bilateral science and technology agreements and other programs; and call for similar actions by other nations and international organizations. (Potential areas for concentration are identified under Tab B.)


—Express the determination to achieve a successful outcome of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Geneva. Explain how liberalization of trade could help to expand and make more efficient LDC agricultural production and encourage exports with which to pay for needed food imports.

United Nations

—Emphasize US support for UN food agencies such as the FAO and WFP. Express the hope that IFAD will perform a constructive role in channeling additional resources into agricultural projects.

Domestic Food Policy

While the above themes deal with international food issues, we believe a speech by the President also should include domestic factors which impact on them. It is clear that domestic policies and productive capacities of the United States and other current food surplus countries will be extremely significant in meeting world hunger over the near and medium terms. If a significant hunger initiative is launched, domestic food policy decisions will have to be supportive. A Presidential message in any event should highlight steps we are taking to maintain US agriculture. These might include, for example, pending revision of domestic policies, implementation of a multiple use approach to the [Page 762]management of public lands, measures to protect the best agricultural land from conversion, and the high priority assigned to soil erosion control and the development of new tools for crop inventorying (LACIE remote sensing effort is an example).

Additional Initiatives

In addition to all of the above, there are several other initiatives which the Inter-Agency Working Group might usefully consider. These include the following:

—A new program of U.S. institution building and research designed to strengthen our domestic food production capacity and concurrently address global requirements. Particular priority for new Department of Energy, USDA and NSF programs aimed at reducing energy component of food production.

—Specific financial commitment to proposed Sahelian Institute ($3–5 million initial contribution).

—High priority to new U.S./Mexico cooperative program designed to protect and restore resource base and achieve agricultural potential of large semi-arid region we share. This concept emerged from UN Desertification Conference and is being developed in the State Department. The Government of Mexico and relevant USG agencies (esp. Interior and USDA) must be brought in prior to any announcement.

—Review U.S. policies and programs to determine if something can be done to expand LDC agricultural exports. Particular priority might be given to adding additional agricultural commodities of interest to LDCs to our GSP list.

—Create a new “food corps” within the U.N. system or elsewhere. Its members would be recruited to undertake grass roots projects aimed at increasing agricultural production at the small farm level.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770193–0983. No classification marking. Drafted by Ogden; cleared by Katz and in substance by Wolf, Long, Witt, Lancaster, and Johnston. Tabs A “Relevant Production-Related Proposals Advanced at World Food Conference,” and B, “Candidate US Initiatives,” are attached but not printed. Anderson transmitted the paper to Bourne under an October 31 covering memorandum, indicating that it was the Department of State’s contribution to the World Hunger Working Group. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 221.
  3. Established in 1977 as a specialized agency of the UN, the International Fund for Agricultural Development financed development projects targeted at increasing food production in developing countries.
  4. See Document 235.
  5. United Nations conferences on food, population, water, and desertification took place respectively in Rome, Italy (November 5–16, 1974), Bucharest, Romania (August 19–30, 1974), Mar del Plata, Argentina (March 14–25, 1977), and Nairobi, Kenya (August 29–September 9, 1977).
  6. The Second UN Development Decade (DD2) (1971–1980) emphasized the creation of a more just and rational global economic and social order. For information concerning the initial U.S. position on the Second Development Decade, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume V, United Nations, 1969–1972, Document 83.
  7. In testimony submitted to the Subcommittee on International Trade of the Senate Committee on Finance on July 13, Katz indicated that the U.S. delegation to the June 1977 International Wheat Council (IWC) meeting in London had proposed a “coordinated system” of grain reserves. For Katz’ complete statement, see Department of State Bulletin, August 22, 1977, pp. 265–267.
  8. The International Grains Arrangement or Agreement (IGA), promulgated in 1967 during the Kennedy Round of the GATT and entered into force on July 1, 1968, consisted of two legal instruments: the Wheat Trade Convention (WTC) and the Food Aid Convention (FAC). The FAC committed signatories to providing a fixed amount of commodities (4.5 tons) to developing nations each year. In 1971 signatories negotiated a new umbrella agreement for the WTC and FAC—the International Wheat Agreement—and renewed it in 1974, 1975, and 1976.
  9. See footnotes 7 and 8, Document 234.
  10. See footnote 10, Document 73.
  11. See Document 212.