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A National Food Policy Why We Need One U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey It is fortunate that the National Academy of Engineering is addressing this very important problem— one we all ought to have been working on years and years ago. Our government today is without a national food policy. We have been operating within what we call free market forces, regardless of what these market forces may do to the population, to hunger, to satisfying human needs. We have tended to ignore the basic needs of mil- lions of people on this planet. I do not believe that this policy can be pursued for long. It is no problem at all for this government to support massive programs of military aid and justify them in the name of national security, but we quibble over whether we can afford a billion dollars a year to provide the needed supplies for an international food program. We fail to understand that there is no security in hunger and want, and there is no security for a country that has no national food policy. We depend on good luck most of the time. A massive crop failure in the United States is highly unrealistic— that is, on a total basis—but we can have sharp drops in production in certain years. If we should have this happen now in the absence of food reserves, we will face serious conditions. We have not really planned a policy for food, a

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policy that includes basic nutrition, adequate supplies, incentives for producers, reasonable systems of distri- bution, processing, and storage. These elements are all interrelated. There is no use talking about increased production if we cannot move it to market, or about pro- duction and opening up millions of additional acres if farmers cannot get the needed finance. American farmers today cannot afford additional production at prime interest rates of l2 percent. We have ignored most of the basic inputs that go into making possible a national food policy. Our rural transportation system is outmoded and inadequate. The railroads have one way of solving their problems—that is to quit railroading. We built interstate highway systems for huge trucks, but we forgot to build the feeder roads for the l0-ton trucks. In my part of the country we now have 8-ton and l0-ton dairy trucks. That is the only way that the dairy cooperatives can keep in business, and make any money, because transportation is part of the production cost. Unfortunately, we use mainly 4-ton roads. In certain parts of Wright County, Minnesota, it takes miles of circuitous travel to find the right kind of concrete and blacktop highways to handle the big trucks. Most people planning these things in Washington are urbanized specialists who have forgotten their heritage and do not know what is happening in rural America. We constantly hear about the urban problem. The other side of the coin is the real problem: rural decay and rural obsolescence. These are the major contributing factors to the urban problem of today. The answer is to modern- ize rural America in terms of all the technology available in a modern society. A national food policy is not possible without considering international implications—the impact of our food policy on other people and countries. We now have to think about commodities in international terms, and this applies also to transportation and other aspects of food production. At present there are only four food reserve countries in the world: the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Eastern Europe is a food deficit area, as are Western Europe, Latin America, and, of course, Asia. We have in our hands, in the Anglo- Saxon world, the greatest single source of power—namely, food. It is more important than oil because people can get by without oil, at least in part, but they must have

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food to stay alive. The major food reserve and producing countries must have a concerted, coordinated policy and not work at odds with each other. It is very important that we set .the world an example on trading, and on the social, political patterns in the use of food. It is only in the last two years that the media, which is the great educational arm of the American people, has at last begun to acquaint the public with some of the dimensions of world food and population problems. Many citizens are raising their voices, and it is out of this concern that new ideas come forth and that national policy is made. WHAT CAN NAE DO? How does this Academy fit into some of these con- cerns? You can offer your judgments, particularly on a number of technical questions which relate to the whole cluster of issues in the food area. Two related problems need be considered. l. Define Ecological Limits What are the present limits of our ecological system in terms of supporting a population constantly expanding in size and in the scope of its demands? We have seen the impact of affluence on food supply just in the last four or five years, even though there were some bad weather conditions and poor crop yields. The people of both Western and Eastern Europe began to want more animal protein. They wanted to get away from just eating grains and to add dairy, poultry, and animal products to their daily diets. Interestingly enough, even in the communist- socialist societies, public opinion has forced central governments to make decisions to feed people increasingly better rather than cut back consumption levels. This is one of the most significant political developments of our times, for never before have these governments bowed to domestic public opinion. When Mr. Brezhnev promised the Communist Party Congress his new program of more consumer goods and food supplies, he had to keep his word. This also happened in Poland after Mr. Gomulka was ousted. Everywhere food production and market outlook depend today upon political decisions. Even our market conditions are

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heavily influenced by decisions in the controlled economies. 2. Expand the Limits Can the limits of the ecological system be expanded? What steps should we take to expand these limits? These questions put the problem in a universal perspective— the interdependence of our world society and our role in it. In looking for the answers we cannot ignore other people in the world. I am reminded here of the words of Adlai Stevenson: "We travel together, passengers on board a small space ship, dependent upon its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it, half-fortunate, half-miserable, half-despairing, half-slave—to the ancient enemies of man—half-free in this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of all." While teaching at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College, I used the perilous Apollo l3 exper- ience as a way of describing the interrelationship between people and the different sources of supply in the world. You may recall that there were three men aboard the space- craft. Had there been five, they would have perished because their system did not have sufficient food, oxygen, or water, to support five. I also pointed out to the young student group the importance of experience from down on the ground. Veteran astronauts on the ground shared their experience with those in space who were learning while in danger. The space program has taught us as much about the relationship between resource supply and people demand, or, to put it in the terminology of this discussion, between food and population, because we created, in real- ity, little worlds inside these space capsules. Just so much supply was there, and it could only take care of just so many people. Some stretching is perhaps possible, as was done during the emergency in Apollo l3. My first question concerning the limitations of our system is a relatively new one for all of us. Maithus tried to bring it to our attention years ago, but we ignored him and only recently has he become popular. 8

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Until recently we assumed an unending supply of minerals, petroleum, soil, and water. Americans now are becoming aware of the limited supply of petroleum and the future scarcity of many important minerals. Engineers can play a very critical role in answering my second question about stretching the present limits of our resources. Are we using what we have for maximum benefit and are we doing it in a way that does not destroy the resource? One of the most important areas of concern in food production is energy supply. Energy is critical to producing fertilizer and powering machinery. We must find new sources of energy to enable the developing countries to increase their food production. Our agricultural methods require great amounts of energy and are not always appropriate for the developing countries. We must find ways to produce food with less energy for ourselves and also for the developing countries. We have operated too long on the assumption of an unlimited supply of cheap energy. Another area where engineers can play an important role is to improve soil and water management, nationally and internationally. This is a vital concern to countries such as India and Pakistan that need to increase output from dry land farming and existing irrigation systems. Improved management of soil and water resources could lead to a several-fold increase in the food output of these countries. The United States alone cannot feed the world. But we can help others feed themselves. We can help them by providing assistance to improve their technology. But they must make a strong effort to increase their own agri- cultural production. Engineers can make other important contributions too—from developing improved techniques of food process- ing to designing new approaches to food storage and planning new and better methods of transportation. If we are creative, we can stretch the benefits of our resources. For example, research must continue for developing new seed varieties. We have had breakthroughs in corn pro- duction, but our soybean productivity has changed very little in 25 years. Soybeans fix their own fertilizer and it is a wonderful crop. I have already proposed a U.S.-Sino soybean research project. This is one way to secure a breakthrough in soybean production.

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BUILDING FOOD SUPPLY AND RESERVES Some people have noted that most of the world's best land is now in production. In the last two years the United States has returned most of its usable land to production. That was the basic reserve we had. Even though we had reserve supplies in granaries, our biggest reserve was this usable land. We have returned about 65 million acres to production. We have a little available beyond that, but it is not very productive land. In addition, water supplies are severely limited. The late Robert Kerr, when he was chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee, did a study on the water supply situation. We have paid no attention to it at all, just as we paid no attention to a study in the 50s on energy supply. We are intellectual squirrels. We accu- mulate these reports and we file them away. Little is done to translate the findings into public policy. I was always amazed that so little was done about the White House Conferences that were held while I served as Vice- President. I tried to get action in Congress, to create an ad hoc committee to follow-up the recommendations of these conferences. Nobody wanted to pay any attention to that. We conducted the studies, and people who parti- cipated were excited about what they were doing. We had a week's publicity and printed a lot of copies that nobody used. This has been basically true of issues of land use, water supply, and mineral resources. We have depleted another important resource which Americans have taken for granted for many years—i.e., ample food reserves, which have meant plentiful supplies of food at very low prices for a long period of time. These reserves of food gave the international community some degree of security and, from an economic point of view, some degree of stability. We need to remember that in most countries of the world the major cost item for a family is food, not a night club, country club, or an automobile, not even a home, but food. It will be difficult to rebuild reserves in face of a growing population and sharply increased demand from developed and developing countries. Fortunately, however, food reserves, as contrasted with the nonrenewable minerals, can be rebuilt if we plan properly and have the will. There is a big argument going on in this government about food reserves. I am on one side of it and a lot l0

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of other people are on the other side. I hear people say that we cannot build a food reserve program without de- pressing the market. I disagree. I have never understood why we demand that the Federal Reserve System have reserve requirements for our monetary system, while we ignore reserves for our food system. How can we ask other nations to build food reserves and leave the matter to the food trading companies? Why should they maintain a food reserve system to provide some degree of price stability? I believe we need a national agricultural policy that relates not only to domestic consumption and commercial exports, but also to international humanitarian needs. We ought to plan for it and figure humanitarian needs into our crop projections. The government ought to set aside a certain amount every year just as individuals set a certain amount away to buy bonds. The United States recently discovered that it was a little short of plutonium, but that did not stop the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense from wanting to upgrade nuclear weapons. There was never a word of objection that we were short of plutonium and we ought to cut back on weapons. I understand something about the world in which we live and the need for weapons. But when we get to other critical areas, such as food, we say we cannot establish even a modest program because we are a little short. To obtain sufficient food for reserves, we must have an incentive system for the American farmer so that he will feel secure in producing abundance. He has been burned in the past by excessive supplies. Some way must be de- vised to seal off reserves from the market. There must also be willingness to share the risk with the farmer. To allow a reasonable return, we must have some basic floor that farm prices do not fall below. We face difficult choices on the issue of limited resources in the face of increasing demands. We face a great moral choice this fall: Will we use scarce energy to produce food or to power our automobiles? Are we prepared to cut back somewhat on available supplies of food for ourselves so that other people may survive? If the American people were really asked these questions, they would respond affirmatively. They would say that we ought to share. We did it before under the Food for Peace Program, and the American people still support interna- tional food assistance. Many people are pessimistic about the future, but I am not without hope. We are not going to be the victims 11

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necessarily of an international crash or crisis, because of the relationships of food and population. Engineers can play an important role in resolving this present crisis. THE NEED FOR NATIONAL PLANNING We are our own worst enemy because of our failure to look ahead and plan. We are the only industrialized country in the world with absolutely no national planning at the governmental level. A country with a national bud- get of more than $300 billion a year can hardly afford not to plan for the future. What our government does in the money markets and how we spend our money is critical. The Office of Management and Budget is not a planning office; it is a bookkeeping office. It has no sense of vision, and it is not equipped for long-range planning. We must have a program of national planning for devel- opment and growth. This also fits into the most important issue of planning our food production and its distribution and use. If the Department of Agriculture has a three, five, seven, or ten year projection, it is one of the best kept secrets in the world. Only two agencies in the gov- ernment have any plans and they get the money: the Defense Department and the Highway Administration. When I was Vice-President, I saw the Pentagon people come in with those long lead time items and their long-term plans. The Highway Trust Fund and the Highway Administration have long- term plans and they know how to use the money. But there are no plans for health, education, or food. FOOD INFORMATION SYSTEM I would hope that engineers will respond to the challenge of developing an improved food information sys- tem. With the threat of scarcity before us, we will need the best possible and most timely information on the world's food supply and demand. I am confident that if we had had more timely information about the Soviet food situation, we would have handled the wheat purchases dif- ferently. The information that we were getting was reaching the Department of Agriculture two or three weeks late, because there did not seem to be any hurry or any great need. We must have a better system than that. On two occasions during the time that Orville Freeman was Secretary of Agriculture, he called on American farmers to l2

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produce more and they did. But, then we ended up with a huge market surplus because the Russians decided not to buy some of our increased production. When we had ample reserves, we could be casual about crop and food information. But with world food reserves down to between three and four weeks, we do not have that luxury. The World Food Conference undoubtedly will direct itself to this problem. I am pleased that our government is taking an active role in the World Food Conference. We must, in fact, play a major role. This concern over sharing information is why I recently urged President Nixon to take up the subject with the Soviet leaders during his trip to Moscow. I know we signed an agreement with them, but I want to be sure that it is being implemented properly. It is hardly unfair to ask the Soviet Union to warn us if they expect a poor harvest and plan to buy heavily on the world market. We have a right to know. I would suggest giving priority in our exports to long-time reliable customers. That should encourage other countries that they too should show some reliability and share food information with us. LONG-TERM APPROACH In the long run we need to bring population increase in line with food and other resources. We can hardly ex- pect parents in developing countries to accept Western notions of family planning when surviving sons represent the only available form of social security. We have to look at the population problem in developing countries as an economic development problem. It is somewhat like the early days of the American frontier when large families were a needed source of labor. We need to emphasize the total development for these countries in whatever area we work, whether it is through the World Bank or Asian Development Bank or through our own foreign assistance programs. We must shift from building cement or steel plants as the first item of business and do what needs to be done first—i.e., develop the essentials of an economy —food, employment, health care, housing and education. We have tried to emphasize this in the new Foreign Assistance Program, but it is hard to get people to do things to which they are not accustomed. When these basic conditions are established, population growth will begin to decline, as it has in other countries. We cannot expect l3

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success or an appreciable impact on the population with the new contraceptive devices in developing countries where there are high rates of illiteracy and inadequate medical and professional personnel. In countries where manpower or childpower is critical to economic survival, I doubt that we can do much about population growth until we have total development. We must not expect miracles or shortcuts. My sug- gestions are modest proposals that you can and should be interested in tackling. Beyond your professional inter- ests, you are, above all, citizens with the accompanying rights and responsibilities. We, Americans, have begun to realize that a chaotic world with one-half affluent and well fed will not long survive while the other half faces starvation and malnutrition. I hope we are begin- ning to realize this, but I worry that we are beginning to turn our back on it. Whether we call it isolationism or selfishness or self-protection, our interests have changed a great deal in the last l0 or l5 years. We have expected too much to be done in too short a time. We built up people's hopes and dreams beyond what was realizable or achievable. This turns people off. That is why planning both domestically and internationally is so vital—to place goals within a time-frame, to allocate resources, and to set achievable goals and benchmarks so that people know what has yet to be achieved. l4