JANUARY 13, 1958
NEW YORK—For a major part of the world, food is one of the things that occupies the thoughts of the greatest number of people. We thought rather narrowly about this great gift given to our country, namely, surplus of foods.
We have tried in various ways to bring about an equality of earning power for the men and women who live on our farms and produce the food, and for the men and women in industry. To do this, we thought only in terms of keeping up a domestic price and cutting down surpluses, which became a burden to us.
This showed lack of imagination and, I think, lack of trust in the ability of the American people to comprehend the real problems of the world today. With a large part of the world hungry, particularly the children, we did devise some ways of selling surplus food, receiving in payment the currencies of various countries and using these currencies for government purposes within those countries.
We even engaged in a certain amount of barter, but this did not actually use up the surpluses which we had or might have had. We have never said to our farmers:
"You are among the most important people in our country. You can make friends for us all over the world. You can give us a diplomatic weapon unsurpassed by any in the hands of any other nation, for you will meet the vital needs of masses of people the world over. Your government will work with the United Nations agency of food and agriculture. It will discover through that agency's studies where your production can be of most value."
Surely the farm organizations in our country, together with our agricultural scientists and farm experts, can work out a detailed plan to use the farm people of our nation—men and women engaged in the most fundamental of all industries—as one of the ways to meet the Soviet threat and to show that we understand the need of the peoples of the world and are ready to help in a practical way.
I have talked with farm people. I know they are glad to help not only for humanitarian reasons but for patriotic reasons. They are proud to feel that they have a real contribution to make to the safety of their country. We have no surpluses as long as there are hungry people both in our own country and throughout the world.
How you accomplish these ends are details to be worked out. But as an example our own government, having once decided that we must produce to the maximum, could set aside a small amount to see to it that school lunches were amply provided for, that welfare budgets—presently not tied to the cost of living and frequently not providing an adequate diet—are supplemented and that people living on fixed pensions are also provided with the means for a better diet.
Then, relieved of certain expenditures geared to prevent production, the government might well be able to work out a subsidy for transportation of food and for buying all extra surpluses to be produced and sold with U.N. advice and agreement at a world price, as far as possible, and to be given where the need is great and the ability to buy inadequate.
It is a difference in investment which might pay dividends in goodwill.