ON February 10, I proposed to the Congress a Food for Freedom program, by which the United States might lead the world in a war against hunger. The act which I have signed today prepares us for this historic task.
Most of the developing world is now in crisis--one that is more serious than any ideological disagreement. Rapid population growth is putting relentless pressure on food supplies.
For 6 consecutive years world food consumption has exceeded production.
A precarious balance has been maintained through our surplus stocks. Seventy million tons of surplus grain have been used since 1961.
But today the surpluses are gone.
We have rationalized our domestic agriculture to eliminate unneeded surpluses. During the past few months, we have acted to expand wheat and feed grain production. Half of our 60 million-acre cropland reserve will be returned to production.
But even the food-producing capability of U.S. farmers--unmatched in history--cannot suffice indefinitely in a world that must feed a million new human beings each week.
The only long-term solution is self-help. Our new Food for Freedom program will provide American food and fiber to stimulate greater productivity in the developing countries. I am instructing the appropriate officials to make sales agreements only after carefully considering what practicable self-help measures are being taken by the recipient country to improve their own capacity to provide food for their people.
We must be certain that our Food for Freedom grants are consistent with our program to encourage the sound and rapid expansion of food production in the receiving countries. Food for Freedom grants will be made only where the country receiving the grant demonstrates its own willingness to help win its own war on hunger. We must also be certain that Food for Freedom grants are made, whenever possible, on a multilateral basis with the other countries of the world who have the resources to join us in food grant programs. We are all members of the family of man and as such we must band together if we are to be successful in the war on hunger.
This act will also permit us to deal with food problems beyond hunger in its starkest form.
Here at home, our farmers will continue a high level of production in the years immediately ahead to meet food needs. In the longer run, successful economic development abroad will build markets for U.S. products.
The sound population programs, encouraged in this measure, freely and voluntarily undertaken, are vital to meeting the food crisis, and to the broader efforts of the developing nations to attain higher standards of living for their people.
There are, however, other provisions which cause me concern. I am particularly troubled by the provision which, while giving some latitude for Presidential discretion, precludes food aid to countries that sell, furnish, or permit their ships or aircraft to transport any equipment, materials, or commodities to either North Vietnam or Cuba.
The position of this administration is quite clear as to free world trade and shipping to both North Vietnam and Cuba. We oppose it. We have conducted and will continue a very active effort against this trade. No free world countries now furnish arms or strategic items to either area.
However, I believe we should have the flexibility to use food aid to further the full range of our important national objectives. Restrictions on its use deprive us of this flexibility. They inhibit us in meeting objectives to which four administrations have dedicated themselves.
Accordingly, I hope that the Congress, in the next session, will reconsider those provisions of this bill, passed in the closing days of the session, which create major difficulties for our foreign policy.
In spite of these problems, the bill marks the beginning of one of the most important tasks of our time. I am proud to sign it.