269. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Italy1

50382. Subject: Possible Food Initiative for Economic Summit. Ref: (A) Rome 45842 (B) Rome 1129.3

1. Your proposal for a food security initiative at the Venice Summit has been received with great interest. Current administration initiatives capture the essence although not the details of your suggestion that the US direct a portion of the grain freed by the suspension of sales to the Soviet Union to food aid and food security purposes.

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2. The administration is pressing for enactment of legislation creating a 4 million ton food security reserve.4 The reserve would backstop our 4.47 million ton annual food assistance pledge under the new Food Aid Convention5 and would be stocked almost entirely by the wheat intended for sale to the Soviet Union. To be used solely for food aid purposes, the reserve would be drawn upon when existing supply does not allow us to honor our food aid commitments. The existence of this reserve will prevent the recurrence of situations such as the early 1970s when crop shortfalls reduced our food aid programs. The passage of this legislation is by no means assured and prospects for its passage would be diminished by discussion at this time about future uses for the food security reserve other than that in the proposed bill.

3. In addition, the President has approved a dollar 100 million supplemental PL 480 request for both FY 80 and 81.6 The incremental food aid amounting to about 450,000 tons equivalent in each year, will largely be programmed for humanitarian and refugee purposes and will be composed of grain made available by the suspension of agricultural trade with the USSR. Some of the FY 81 supplemental food aid may be available as incremental stocks for soundly conceived food storage projects in LDCs.

4. While the Venice Summit agenda is pending future discussion with our Summit partners, internal preparations include measures bearing on world food security which contain elements of your suggested initiative. Under consideration are an expression of intention by the Summit members to establish food aid reserves and an affirmation of support for proposed World Bank investment of dollars 1 billion in the 1980’s to expand the food storage and distribution capacity of the poorest developing countries.

5. Donor held food aid reserves would isolate internationally committed food aid stocks from the market and assure the ability of donors to meet their food aid commitments even during global crop shortfalls. The IBRD-financed LDC storage program would alleviate a fundamental food security problem of lack of indigenous food storage capacity that was identified by the developing countries during the negotiations for a new International Wheat Agreement. Donor held food aid reserves and enhanced LDC storage capacity may create a basis for overcoming some of the obstacles to a viable international food reserve system.

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6. We do not contemplate launching any food security initiatives at the upcoming session of the FAO Committee on World Food Security. By that time, we expect the release of the final report of the President’s Commission on World Hunger and the possibility of high level US statements relating to international food matters. The US delegation to the FAO Food Security meeting will be apprised of the status of various food initiatives for the Venice Summit and global negotiations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800098–0201. Confidential; Priority. Sent for Gardner from Cooper. Drafted by Kolar; cleared by Hinton, Hathaway, Bronheim, Joel Johnson, Maynes, Poats, Raymond Hill, and Seitz; approved by Cooper.
  2. In telegram 4584 from Rome, February 20, Gardner reiterated his support for a “dramatic food security initiative.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800089–0764)
  3. See Document 264.
  4. Presumable reference to H.R. 4489, the Food Security Act of 1979; see Document 260.
  5. Signatories approved a new Food Aid Convention in London on March 6, which replaced the FAC negotiated in 1971, as part of the International Wheat Agreement (IWA). See footnote 7, Document 236.
  6. See Document 265.