MARCH 5, 1956
NEW YORK—Recently I saw a letter from a minister to the Secretary of Agriculture which pointed out that the Bible contained some suggestions that might be of value in solving the question of surplus farm production. It referred to the passage in Leviticus which says: "Six years shall you plough your fields and collect its crops . . . and on the seventh year, you shall declare a rest for the soil."
The implication here is that one-seventh of our farm land be given a rest every year. The farmers would be compensated for allowing this area to lie fallow, and the result would be a better crop the following year.
I believe this, of course, has been one of the principles of good farming for a long time. The farmer rotates his crops in nearly all his fields, and from time to time plows certain crops under to enrich the soil. Certainly the idea of producing crops that come from better soil is nothing new to those who have been discussing organic farming.
The second idea proposed is that a food bank should be set up. This seems to me more questionable in its practical aspects, because no matter how carefully you try to keep things in storage there will be some deterioration after a certain period.
I believe this question should be studied in cooperation with Food and Agriculture, a specialized agency of the United Nations. This agency has made a careful study of world conditions and could probably keep us informed as to the areas where exchanges of goods could profitably take place, where there is need for certain kinds of food which are surplus in other areas, and which could be sold without upsetting the economy of other nations selling the same product to certain special areas in the past. Surpluses must not be allowed to upset existing economic situations and create more difficulty. If they could be so channelled as to relieve the pressure of hunger in the world, they might well be a valuable weapon.
If we prove to the world as a whole that the United States, which is the symbol of democracy, can act with wisdom and generosity and achieve greater production which can be of value to the rest of the world than do some of the Communist areas, we have won a valuable victory.
I would be happy if we could show that we can use the weapons of food rather than the weapons created by atomic energy. At present many nations in Asia and the Near East think of us as being more willing to use military force than are the Soviets. I think this is a regrettable impression to make in any area of the world.