264. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State1

1129. FODAG. For Secretary Vance. From Ambassador Gardner. Subject: Possible Food Initiative in Conjunction With Economic Summit.2

1. (C—Entire text).

2. The juxtaposition of the recent suspension of grain sales to the Soviet Union3 and release of the preliminary [report] presents a special opportunity for action. In the report, the Commission calls for the U.S. to increase substantially our resource commitment to the world food problem; the sudden availability of grain could provide the “capital” for such action. My impression is that, from the wheat being purchased by the government and other grain already in government hands, as much as two million tons of wheat could be made available for some sort of food aid initiative—potentially a $340 million additional financial commitment to the world hunger problem.

3. Thus, the time seems propitious for a U.S. initiative which would give impetus to world food security through sponsorship of national food reserves in key developing countries. Such a proposal would:

—Demonstrate that the U.S. can use food constructively to help those of our friends who are needy, rather than just withholding it from our adversaries who are not; (A food reserve package for Pakistan, for [Page 884] example, if it could be pulled together, would seem to have particular appeal at this time.)4

—Lay the basis for the President to take a major food initiative on which international attention could be focused at the Venice Summit, thus reinforcing his role as a world leader.

—Constitute a political statement that U.S. is committed to doing more about world hunger.

—Help diminish resistance in our domestic farm community to continued restrictions on our grain sales to the USSR.

4. In order to get maximum impact from an initiative along the foregoing lines, I recommend that:

(A) The President announce that use of U.S. grain to improve world food reserves is under intensive study.

(B) Staff work be undertaken in Washington to ascertain the extent of resources which could be committed, emergency legislative action and/or Congressional consultation which might be necessary, and the mechanics of making grain available. Simultaneously, soundings be taken both bilaterally and also through international organizations, particularly through the FAO and World Food Council as to (A) developing countries’ receptivity, and willingness to take necessary supportive policy action and (B) other donor countries’ willingness to make financial commitments for necessary associated expenditures, i.e., infrastructure, shipping, etc.

(C) FAO Committee on Food Security meeting in late March to be utilized, with consent of FAO Director-General, as forum for further coalescing national food reserve packages.

(D) If all goes well, President Carter to announce a proposal either at, or on the eve of the Venice Summit, of a food reserve initiative, to which the U.S. would make an initial pledge of at least 2 million tons of grain.

5. I have some further thoughts on how such an initiative could be orchestrated for maximum effect, and look forward to the opportunity to explore this idea in greater depth with you during my visit to Washington, January 20 through 25.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800024–0229. Confidential; Immediate.
  2. The sixth Economic Summit of the G–7 nations was scheduled to be held in Venice in June.
  3. In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24–27, 1979, the President, on January 7, directed the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture to take immediate action under the Export Administration Act to terminate grain shipments to the Soviet Union. Export licenses could be granted to allow for shipment of up to 8 million metric tons of grain per year as permitted under a 1975 agreement between the United States and the USSR. (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, p. 32) Documentation on the Soviet grain embargo is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume VI, Soviet Union.
  4. Presumable reference to the influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, straining the capacity of Pakistani refugee camps. Previously, in April 1979, the Carter administration had suspended aid to Pakistan, with the exception of P.L. 480 commodities, owing to U.S. nuclear non-proliferation laws that prohibited military and economic assistance to nations seeking to produce or acquire nuclear weapons. In light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, U.S. officials reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Pakistan’s security and began examining ways of extending bilateral and multilateral aid. (American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1977–1981, pp. 900–909)