Excerpts from a Press Session
Q. Governor, yesterday when you spoke at the Iowa State Fair you said very clearly that you would go to Washington and end embargoes once and for all.
Governor Carter. Yes, that's right.
Q. I had the feeling that because it was in your prepared remarks it wasn't something you got carried away with. Then later on in an interview with a reporter from one of the Des Moines papers, you said that your words were too strong and went too far. Now would you clarify that— would you have embargoes or would you not?
Governor Carter. Well, what the reporter asked me was that if we had a terrible drought or catastrophe and we did not have enough food in this country to eat, would I still ship grain overseas under those circumstances? And I told him no, of course I wouldn't do that, not if it would create hunger in our own nation, but that I analyzed every one of the four embargoes that Presidents Nixon and Ford had imposed, and I would not have imposed any of those four embargoes. Obviously, there are some circumstances where if we had a complete failure of our com or wheat or soybeans we'd have to restrict exports, but I pointed out to the reporters for the Des Moines newspaper that we have an export rate of 60 percent on wheat We would have to come down below a 60 percent reserve or crop harvest before that would be considered. So it would be an extremely unlikely thing; but in the case of an extreme emergency, of course, anybody in his right mind would not rob our own people of food and create hunger in this country to sell food overseas.
Q. Governor, during the primary season your Democratic opponents, and some Republicans, as well, accused you of being fuzzy on the issues, saying things that a particular audience wanted to hear, being misleading on certain issues. Would you feel that what you said to that crowd yesterday without any qualification was misleading?
Governor Carter. No; I don't think so. I don't believe there's any farmer in the United States that would want or expect any leader to create a direct hunger in this country with a total crop failure and still ship food overseas. We've never faced that prospect in my lifetime, and as I said, it would be a catastrophe of an almost unimaginable degree before that would be necessary.
Q. Governor, could I follow up on that?
Governor Carter. Mease do.
Q. Can you reconcile the fact that in your prepared text you made a statement, and within a matter of an hour you were saying the statement you made was too strong. You were speaking to a limited audience the second time, and for a nationwide audience the first time?
Governor Carter. Had you been there, Don, and heard the question or the supposition that was put to me under that premise that I just described to you, there would be no way to continue to share full supplies of grain overseas. But I pointed out as I said earlier to the Des Moines newspapers that we would have to have more than a 60 percent reduction in our total wheat reserves and production before that would be necessary, and it would be an almost inconceivable circumstance.
Q. President Ford said at the convention that he would no longer impose an embargo unless there was a true national emergency. Do you see eye to eye on that?
Governor Carter. I think that in the last 3 years when the embargoes have been imposed, Mr. Butz and his bosses, either Nixon or Ford, have agreed that there was an emergency. As I told the Des Moines Register newspaper reporters yesterday, who are strongly, by the way, opposed to any embargoes, under none of those four circumstances would I have imposed an embargo. So the measurements that have been applied in the past to the Republican Administrations on whether or not an emergency existed, I would not have assumed that they were emergencies severe enough to create an embargo.
Jimmy Carter, Excerpts from a Press Session Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347647