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Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy, Washington, DC

October 31, 1960


We live in a land of abundance, a land of such great abundance of food and fiber, in fact, that our "cup runneth over." At the same time we live in a world where over 60 percent of the population lives under the shadow of hunger and malnutrition.

This is the great paradox of the 1950's. Bitter want and hunger in the newly developing nations have goaded their people into restless action and revolution as they have sought to better their lives. Some have turned to the tyranny of communism as a means to rapid economic development.

Meanwhile, the present administration has turned our food and fiber abundance into a problem and a burden instead of using it with the imagination, efficiency, and flexibility that would strengthen the entire free world. The hungry millions, at home and abroad are still hungry, although our Government-owned food stockpiles have grown tremendously during the past 8 years to seven times as great as in January 1953. The "temporary surplus disposal" approach of Public Law 480 has not been adequate. It has neither met the needs of the world's hungry nor kept pace with our own growing stockpiles. The present administration has not been willing to expand this "surplus disposal" operation into a constructive effort of "surplus use" - a truly effective long-range use of our food abundance to build lasting foundations for durable peace and progress.

These failures can be corrected only if we take a completely fresh approach to the whole problem of food production and food use. We should take action now to achieve a true food-for-peace program, not merely a food-for-peace slogan. Our food and fiber can and should become an important instrument of foreign policy. We need to build a long-term bridge between the world's food surpluses and the food deficit areas of the world.

A positive approach can be carried out by this six-point program of action:

1. Change the emphasis upon short-term "surplus disposal" in the present oversea food use program to a long-range basis to permit more effective and constructive use of supplies in the recipient countries. The present programs have the character of "bread line and soup kitchen" relief. They accomplish little more than temporary survival. What is needed instead of humiliating, hand-to-mouth charity is the use of food as a long-range investment in progress. People should be given the opportunity to earn bread and milk from our surplus stocks by working for it - on construction of roads, bridges, sanitation and pure water supply systems, building schoolhouses, and other lasting and wealth-creating improvements in their own economies.

2. Centralize responsibility for the administration of all phases of oversea distribution of U.S. foods. Nine separate Government agencies now share authority for administration of overlapping programs. No single administrator is fully responsible. Duplication of effort, timewasting delays, inefficiency, and confusion is the result.

3. Increase substantially the annual amount of food and fiber to be distributed overseas by the voluntary relief agencies and, if necessary, provide supplementary foodstuffs to enable these agencies to undertake well-rounded nutritional programs for the needy people they serve. A useful pattern for the use of donated foods to alleviate famine and hunger has been established through the welfare and feeding programs conducted by the church groups and other voluntary and intergovernmental agencies. These agencies should be assured of a continuity of supply so they may plan for effective programs.

4. Continue government-to-government assistance in the case of sudden disasters, earthquakes, floods, droughts, and fires, and insure that such assistance is given readily and promptly.

5. Hold a second International Conference on Food and Agriculture, similar to the one held at Hot Springs, Va., in 1942, under the leadership of President Roosevelt, to deal on a constructive multilateral basis with the food needs of the world. This conference, held in cooperation with the United Nations Organization, should have as its specific goal the organization of an agency to undertake the use of surplus food and fiber stocks from surplus-producing nations by the people of food-deficit nations.

6. Pending such a conference and creation of a world food agency, negotiate long-term agreements with other surplus-producing countries to cooperate in supplying food and fiber for workers in underdeveloped countries as they build roads and canals, dig wells and build schools, and learn new trades and skills. In this way, the world's food abundance will be used to form capital, increase productivity, and increase real incomes. Agreements similar to the one recently concluded with India can be of major assistance in the economic development plans of other food deficit countries.

This is the constructive food-for-peace program that can use America's and the free world's great agricultural productive capability and our large reserve supplies of farm commodities as vital bastions of positive and defensive strength for the entire free world.

Because of the importance of prompt action to invigorate and improve our use of food stockpiles, I am appointing a committee of distinguished citizens who have knowledge and experience in this field to begin at once to formulate specific recommendations for implementing the program outlined herein, to be presented to the new administration early in 1961.

Members of the committee are as follows:

Murray D. Lincoln, chairman, president of CARE and president of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Companies, Columbus, Ohio.

The Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and sponsor of the International Food for Peace Act in the 86th Congress.

Donald Murphy, director of editorial research, Wallace's Farmer, Des Moines, Iowa, and former chairman, Agriculture Committee, National Planning Association.

George W. Forell, professor of systematic theology, Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, Maywood, Ill., recently returned from Tanganyika, Africa, where he was teaching, under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation.

William Benton, Southport, Conn., former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mrs. Mary Lasker, New York City, active supporter of medical and health research, and nationally known leader in public health, cancer, heart, and mental health organizations.

Additional appointments will be announced at a later date.

John F. Kennedy, Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy, Washington, DC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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