Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Special Message to the Congress: Food for Freedom

February 10, 1966

To the Congress of the United States:

Men first joined together for the necessities of life--food for their families, clothing to protect them, housing to give them shelter.

These are the essentials of peace and progress.

But in the world today, these needs are still largely unfulfilled.

When men and their families are hungry, poorly clad and ill-housed, the world is restless--and civilization exists at best in troubled peace.


Hunger poisons the mind. It saps the body. It destroys hope. It is the natural enemy of every man on earth.

I propose that the United States lead the world in a war against hunger.

There can only be victors in this war. Since every nation will share in that victory, every nation should share in its costs. I urge all who can help to join us.


The program I am submitting to Congress today, together with the proposals set forth in my message on foreign assistance, look to a world in which no man, woman or child need suffer want of food or clothing. The key to victory is self-help.

Aid must be accompanied by a major effort on the part of those who receive it. Unless it is, more harm than good can be the end result.

I propose:

1. Expanded food shipments to countries where food needs are growing and self-help efforts are under way.

Even with their maximum efforts abroad, our food aid will be needed for many years to come.

2. Increased capital and technical assistance.

Thus, self-help will bear fruit through increased farm production.

3. Elimination of the "surplus" concept in food aid.

Current farm programs are eliminating the surpluses in our warehouses. Fortunately the same programs are flexible enough to gear farm production to amounts that can be used constructively.

4. Continued expansion of markets for American agricultural commodities.

Increased purchasing power, among the hundreds of millions of consumers in developing countries, will help them become good customers of the American farmer.

5. Increasing emphasis on nutrition, especially for the young.

We will continue to encourage private industry, in cooperation with the government, to produce and distribute foods to combat malnutrition.

6. Provision for adequate reserves of essential food commodities.

Our reserves must be large enough to serve as a stabilizing influence and to meet any emergency.


This program keeps faith with policies this nation has followed since President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Four Freedoms of mankind.

After World War II, we helped to make Europe free from want. We carded out on that continent massive programs of relief, reconstruction and development.

This great effort--the Marshall Plan-was followed by President Truman's Point Four, President Eisenhower's Act of Bogota and its successor, President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress. Under these programs we have provided technical and capital assistance to the developing nations.

Our food aid programs have brought over 140 million tons of food to hungry people during the past decade.

Hunger, malnutrition and famine have been averted.

Schools and hospitals have been built. Seventy million children now receive American food in school lunch and family and child feeding programs.

Nevertheless the problem of world hunger is more serious today than ever before.


One new element in today's world is the threat of mass hunger and starvation. Populations are exploding under the impact of sharp cuts in the death rate. Successful public health measures have saved millions of lives. But these lives are now threatened by hunger because food production has not kept pace.

A balance between agricultural productivity and population is necessary to prevent the shadow of hunger from becoming a nightmare of famine. In my message on International Health and Education, I described our increased efforts to help deal with the population problem.


Many of the developing countries urgently need to give a higher priority to improving and modernizing their own production and distribution of food. The overwhelming majority of those who till the soil still use the primitive methods of their ancestors. They produce little more than enough to meet their own needs, and remain outside of the market economy.

History has taught us that lack of agricultural development can cripple economic growth.

The developing countries must make basic improvements in their own agriculture.

They must bring the great majority of their people--now living in rural areas-into the market economy.

They must make the farmer a better customer of urban industry and thus accelerate the pace of economic development.

They must begin to provide all of their people with the food they need.

They must increase their exports, and earn the foreign exchange to purchase the foods and other goods which they themselves cannot produce efficiently.

In some developing countries, marked improvement is already taking place. Taiwan and Greece are raising their food output and becoming better cash customers for our food exports every year. Others have made a good beginning in improving agricultural production.


There is one characteristic common to all those who have increased the productivity of their farms: a national will and determination to help themselves.

We know what would happen if increased aid were dispensed without regard to measures of self-help. Economic incentives for higher production would disappear. Local agriculture would decline as dependence upon United States food increased.

Such a course would lead to disaster. Disaster could be postponed for a decade or even two--but it could not be avoided. It could be postponed if the United States were to produce at full capacity and if we financed the massive shipments needed to fill an ever-growing deficit in the hungry nations.

But ultimately those nations would pay an exorbitant cost. They would pay it not only in money, but in years and lives wasted. If our food aid programs serve only as a crutch, they will encourage the developing nations to neglect improvements they must make in their own production of food.

For the sake of those we would aid, we must not take that course.

We shall not take that course.

But candor requires that I warn you the time is not far off when all the combined production, on all of the acres, of all of the agriculturally productive nations, will not meet the food needs of the developing nations--unless present trends are changed.

Dependence on American aid will not bring about such a change.

The program I present today is designed to bring about that change.


Beyond simple hunger, there lies the problem of malnutrition.

We know that nutritional deficiencies are a major contributing cause to a death rate among infants and young children that is thirty times higher in developing countries than in advanced areas.

Protein and vitamin deficiencies during pre-school years leave indelible scars.

Millions have died. Millions have been handicapped for life--physically or mentally.

Malnutrition saps a child's ability to learn. It weakens a nation's ability to progress. It can--and must--be attacked vigorously.

We are already increasing the nutritional content of our food aid contributions. We are working with private industry to produce and market nutritionally rich foods. We must encourage and assist the developing countries themselves to expand their production and use of such foods.

The wonders of modern science must also be directed to the fight against malnutrition. I have today directed the President's Science Advisory Committee to work with the very best talent in this nation to search out new ways to:

--develop inexpensive, high-quality synthetic foods as dietary supplements. A promising start has already been made in isolating protein sources from fish, which are in plentiful supply throughout the world.

--improve the quality and the nutritional content of food crops.

--apply all of the resources of technology to increasing food production.


Our farm programs must reflect changing conditions in the United States and the world. Congress has provided--

--For American farmers, a continuing prospect of rising incomes.

--For American consumers, assurance of an abundance of high quality food at fair prices.

--For American taxpayers, less dollars spent to stockpile commodities in quantities greater than those needed for essential reserves.

Today--because of the world's needs, and because of the changing picture of U.S. agriculture--our food aid programs can no longer be governed by surpluses. The productive capacity of American agriculture can and should produce enough food and fiber to provide for:

1. domestic needs,

2. commercial exports,

3. food aid to those developing countries that are determined to help themselves,

4. reserves adequate to meet any emergency, and to stabilize prices.

To meet these needs, I am today directing the Secretary of Agriculture to:

1. Increase the 1966 acreage allotment for rice by ten percent.

Unprecedented demands arising out of drought and war in Asia require us to increase our rice crop this year. I know that our farmers will respond to this need, and that the Congress will understand the emergency that requires this temporary response.

2. Buy limited amounts of dairy products under the authority of the 1965 Act.

We must have adequate supplies of dairy products for commercial markets, and to meet high priority domestic and foreign program needs. Milk from U.S. farms is the only milk available to millions of poor children abroad. The Secretary will use authority in the 1965 Act whenever necessary to meet our needs for dairy products.

3. Take actions that will increase soybean production in 1966.

The demand for soybeans has climbed each year since 1960. Despite record crops, we have virtually no reserve stocks. To assure adequate supplies at prices fair to farmers and consumers, the Secretary of Agriculture will use authority under the 1965 Act to encourage production of soybeans on acreage formerly planted to feed grains. Feed grain stocks are more than sufficient.

These actions supplement earlier decisions to increase this year's production of wheat and barley. Although our present reserves of wheat are adequate to meet all likely shipments, the Secretary of Agriculture has suspended programs for voluntary diversion of additional spring wheat plantings.

Our 60 million acres now diverted to conservation uses represent the major emergency reserve that could readily be called forth in the critical race between food and population. We will bring these acres back into production as needed--but not to produce unwanted surplus, and not to supplant the efforts of other countries to develop their own agricultural economies.

These actions illustrate how our domestic farm program will place the American farmer in the front ranks in the world-wide war on hunger.


I recommend a new Food for Freedom Act that retains the best provisions of Public Law 480, and that will:

--make self-help an integral 'part of our food aid program.

--eliminate the "surplus" requirement for food aid.

--emphasize the development of markets for American farm products.

--authorize greater food aid shipments than the current rate.

--emphasize the building of cash markets and the shift toward financing food aid through long-term dollar credits rather than sales for foreign currencies. Except for U.S. requirements, we look to the completion of that shift by the end of five years.

--continue to finance the food aid program under the Commodity Credit Corporation.

--increase emphasis on combating malnutrition. The Act will authorize the CCC to finance the enrichment of foods.

--continue to work with voluntary agencies in people-to-people assistance programs.

--provide for better coordination of food aid with other economic assistance.


I recommend a program to establish the principle of the ever-normal granary by providing for food and fiber reserves.

This program supplements Food for Freedom.

It establishes a reserve policy that will protect the American people from unstable supplies of food and fiber, and from high prices in times of emergency.

The legislation I recommend to the Congress will enable us to draw strength from two great related assets:

--the productive genius of our farmers.

--the potential that lies in the 60 million acres now withdrawn from production.

In case of need, most of those acres could be brought back into productive farming within twelve to eighteen months. But because of the seasonal nature of farming time would be needed to expand production even under the flexible provisions of the Agriculture Act of 1965. Therefore we need a reserve to bridge this gap.

We have been able to operate without a specific commodity reserve policy in recent years, because the surpluses built up in the 1950's exceeded our reserve needs. This condition has almost run its course.

Under present law, the Secretary of Agriculture must dispose of all stocks of agricultural commodities as rapidly as possible, consistent with orderly marketing procedures. As we continue to reduce our surpluses we need to amend the law to authorize the maintenance of reserve stocks.

The Act I recommend will do that.

It will authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to establish minimum reserve levels. Under the Act, he must take into account normal trade stocks, consumer and farm prices, domestic and export requirements, crop yield variations and commitments under our domestic and foreign food programs.

The reserve would be used to meet priority needs, under prices and conditions to be determined within the broad guidelines established by existing law.

The Act could be implemented in the year ahead without any additional cost to the Government. We are still reducing our surpluses of most agricultural commodities. During the first year of the new program, it is not likely that we will have to purchase any commodity to build up a reserve.

Under the two Acts I recommend today, with the farm legislation now on the statute books--and with the foreign assistance program I have recommended--we will be able to make maximum use of the productivity -of our farms.

We can make our technology and skills powerful instruments for agricultural progress throughout the world--wherever men commit themselves to the task of feeding the hungry.


To strengthen these programs our food aid and economic assistance must be closely linked. Together they must relate to efforts in developing countries to improve their own agriculture. The Departments of State and Agriculture and the Agency for International Development will work together, even more closely than they have in the past in the planning and implementing of coordinated programs.

In the past few years AID has called upon the Department of Agriculture to assume increasing responsibilities through its International Agricultural Development Service. That policy will become even more important as we increase our emphasis on assisting developing nations to help themselves.

Under the Food for Freedom Act, the Secretary of Agriculture will continue to have authority to determine the commodities available. He will act only after consulting with the Secretary of State on the foreign policy aspects of food aid and with other interested agencies.

We must extend to world problems in food and agriculture the kind of cooperative relationships we have developed with the states, universities, farm organizations, and private industry.


It is not enough that we unify our own efforts. We cannot meet this problem alone.

Hunger is a world problem. It must be dealt with by the world.

We must encourage a truly international effort to combat hunger and modernize agriculture.

We shall work to strengthen the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The efforts of the multilateral lending organizations, and of the United Nations Development Program should be expanded--particularly in food and agriculture.

We are prepared to increase our participation in regional as well as world-wide multilateral efforts, wherever they provide efficient technical assistance and make real contributions to increasing the food-growing capacities of the developing nations. For example, we will undertake a greatly increased effort to assist improvements in rice yields in the rice-eating less developed countries, as part of our cooperation with FAO during this International Rice Year.


The program I recommend today will raise a new standard of aid for the hungry, and for world agriculture.

It proclaims our commitment to a better world society--where every person can hope for life's essentials--and be able to find them in peace.

It proclaims the inter-dependence of mankind in its quest for food and clothing and shelter.

It is built on three universal truths:

--that agriculture is an essential pursuit of every nation,

--that an abundant harvest is not only a gift of God, but also the product of man's skill and determination and commitment,

--that hunger and want--anywhere--are the eternal enemies of all mankind.

I urge Congress to consider and debate these suggestions thoroughly and wisely in the hope and belief we can from them fashion a program that will keep free men free, and at the same time share our leadership and agricultural resources with our less blessed brothers throughout the world.


The White House

February 10, 1966

Note: The Food for Peace Act of 1966 was approved by the President on November 11, 1966 (see Item 608).
See also Item 63.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Congress: Food for Freedom Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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