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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Extending the Agricultural Trade and Assistance Act.

October 08, 1964

I AM very happy to sign this bill. It will extend for 2 years legislation of enormous importance both to the United States and to the rest of the free world. It authorizes continuation of the Food for Peace program. This program makes possible the sharing of our abundance on a scale unparalleled in the history of the world. It stands as a monument to the miracle wrought by the American farmer and to the generosity and practical wisdom of the American people.

The Food for Peace program authorized by this law will permit us to use our agricultural abundance to combat malnutrition and hunger in the less developed countries and to promote their economic growth. At the same time, this program will help us to attain vitally important economic and foreign policy objectives. It benefits all of the people, directly or indirectly.

During the past 10 years we have shipped $12.2 billion in food to needy people, under Public Law 480. Our food has gone to over 100 countries. It has relieved the hunger of many millions of men, women, and children.

Most of us, in this rich land of ours, find it difficult to imagine what food assistance really means to the half of the people in the world who have too little to eat. This kind of assistance means a noon meal for 40 million foreign schoolchildren. It means emergency supplies when catastrophe strikes--drought, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes. To millions of people it means the difference between an inadequate and barely adequate diet.

Our food also promotes economic growth in the less developed countries. It helps control inflation. It generates local currencies, which the United States can grant to less developed countries, to help them build their industry, their agriculture, their communications, their schools, and their hospitals.

The United States is also a prime beneficiary of the program.

The Food for Peace program authorized by Public Law 480 makes constructive use of the abundant production of our farmers and ranchers, thereby increasing their incomes. It stimulates business for American industry and creates jobs for American workers. It builds, through market promotion and economic development, the basis for expanded cash sales of American farm products.

The Food for Peace program furthers our foreign policy objectives. It helps strengthen many other countries of the free world which is certainly in our mutual interest. It creates good will for the United States. It gives all countries a chance to see how remarkably efficient our free agricultural system really is--especially when compared with the regimented and depressed farming of the Communist world.

This bill, however, contains several features which concern me. Of these, two provisions are particularly undesirable. One seeks to give either the House Committee on Agriculture or the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry a veto power over certain proposed dispositions of foreign currencies accruing from sales under Public Law 480. The other seeks to prevent the President from making certain loans at interest rates below a specified level unless he has concurrence of an advisory committee composed in part of Members of Congress and in part of his own executive appointees.

In recent years four Attorneys General of the United States have held that legislative provisions vesting in congressional committees the power to approve or disapprove actions of the executive branch are unconstitutional. The Acting Attorney General now advises me that a provision vesting such power in a committee made up in part of Members of Congress stands on no better footing. Both such provisions represent a clear violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers. This is the position taken in similar cases by President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and by myself.

However, I appreciate the desire of the Congress to be informed and to be consulted on the operation of all aspects of the Public Law 480 program, and I am directing that executive officials see that this is done.

Two other provisions of the bill are disturbing. The first, by preventing any foreign currency sales to any communist countries, inhibits our ability to deal selectively with countries that may demonstrate a tendency toward political and economic independence from communism. I note, however, that the effect of this restriction is somewhat offset by the authorization to make dollar sales on credit to such countries. The second, by requiring that our surplus inventories of extra-long staple cotton be offered for sale at world prices, could create serious problems in our foreign relations. I am directing that this provision be administered with great care so as to minimize any harmful effects on the economies of the free world countries which are the principal exporters of this commodity.

But the overriding fact is that the bill I have just approved will permit the Food for Peace program to continue uninterrupted for another 2 years. Both in its tangible and intangible benefits, this vital program deserves and, I believe, enjoys the overwhelming support of the American people. It has and will continue to receive the wholehearted support of this administration. If the past is any guide to the future, I am confident that Food for Peace will represent a growing force in our efforts to advance the cause of freedom throughout the world.

Note: As enacted, the bill (S. 2687) is Public Law 88-638 (78 Stat. 1035).

The statement was released at Indianapolis, Ind.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Extending the Agricultural Trade and Assistance Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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