(instead of grain embargo to USSR)

In the late 70s, having not that long ago returned from travelling and working around the world (and being particularly amazed by Afghanistan), I was horrified when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. I was happy when President Carter announced that the United States would stop sending grain to the USSR in the hopes of starving them into pulling out their troops. But for the grain embargo to be effective, all other Western nations would ALSO have to stop sending grain. I remember how ashamed I was of Canada when our Prime Minister - the Red-Chinese and abortion-loving Pierre Trudeau - refused to stop shipments of our wheat to the USSR. It seemed strange to me then, as it does now, how friendly our government was toward the Soviet Union, that we would keep on sending them food even though they were seeking world domination over free and democratic nations.

That's why the following article interests me. It describes the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that went on in regards to that embargo. And it explains how feeble were the attempts of the majority of the nations in putting the screws to the Soviet Union. Australia, Argentina and Europe, besides Canada, also continued sending wheat, corn and barley to the Soviet Union. I was particularly surprised to learn that Ronald Reagan (who was later made a big deal of for calling Russia the "Evil Empire") actually ran for and won the 1980 presidency in part based on his promise to "lift the grain embargo" and once again start shipping USA grain to the Soviet Union.

The situation wherein the European Community and the Western Community picked up the slack for the Soviet Union when the Americans cut her off, gives added meaning to Orwell's explanation in "1984" that the three superstates were constantly changing partners. Sometimes "Oceania was at war with EURasia and in alliance with EASTasia" and at other times Oceania was "in ALLIANCE with Eurasia and at WAR with Eastasia". In the case of the Grain Embargo, they truly did, again quoting Orwell, "prop one another up, like three sheaves of corn".

Another thing that was a bit disturbing to learn through reading this article, was how selfish were the free-world farmers. The only thing they were concerned with was getting a good price for their grain, and they didn't care WHO ate it. Apparently they were AGAINST the embargo, fearing their profits would suffer. In this regard, they, along with their leaders, were complicit in enabling the Communist regime to continue. It goes to prove that famous adage by Edmund Burke: "The surest way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing". The farmers were no doubt good men, but they didn't think beyond their farms to the bigger world-wide picture. They didn't realize that if they allowed Communism to move forward unchecked, it would one day affect their very existence. One musn't forget that a main plank of Communism is the collectivization of farming, with farmers nothing more than tenants. That is increasingly where the American farmer now stands, with international corporations putting him out of business by buying cheap produce from nations where poorly paid workers toil in the fields owned by governments or private corporations. ~ Jackie Jura

by Jim Wieremeyer:

...I've been busy going through my extensive historical files as a beat reporter in the 1980s when I covered the Carter grain embargo against the then Soviet Union (USSR): A USSR grain embargo backgrounder (from an Economic Research Service publication I found in one of my many file cabinets):

President Jimmy Carter late Friday, January 4, 1980, announced a grain embargo to the USSR. It was a foreign policy action motivated by the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. The embargo lasted nearly 16 months -- from January 4, 1980, to April 24, 1981, and included a wide range of products (wheat, feed grains, soybeans, meat, dairy products, poultry, animal fats, and agrichemicals). Grain accounted for nearly 80 percent of the value of U.S. ag exports to the USSR in 1980. However, the embargo was only partial for grains because the U.S. honored the 1975 U.S.-USSR agreement -- the Soviets were allowed to import the 8 million ton obligation specified in the fourth (1979/80) and fifth (1980/81) years of the accord.

Ronald Reagan fulfilled his presidential campaign promise to lift the embargo three months after taking office -- President Reagan lifted the embargo on April 24, 1981...

More embargo background, according to a USDA report about the embargo that I found in my files...

"President Carter wanted to make a strong statement that the United States would not allow USSR aggression to go unanswered, according to our interviews with key officials of the period. Military responses were considered inappropriate, and diplomatic protests were considered inadequate. An agricultural embargo emerged as the most plausible alternative when a report by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) showed that a grain embargo would reduce USSR meat consumption 20 percent. The report assumed full cooperation from other exporters in not filling the void left from the withdrawal of U.S. grain from the USSR market and that USSR port capacity constraints and low domestic grain harvests would contribute to reduced livestock production. In contrast, a USDA analysis done at the time, but which, according to our interviews, probably did not enter into the discussion to embargo, predicted only a 2- 4-percent decline in USSR meat consumption assuming full cooperation from other exporters."

"The embargo decision was based on two important conclusions from the analysis at the that time. First, cooperation of other exporters and grain companies was essential. Second, grain companies and U.S. farmers would have to be compensated. If the embargo effect was to be as large as estimated by the CIA report, the decline in world grain trade would be significant and compensation to the U.S. farm sector would need to be large."

"All but two trading firms agreed to cease shipping grain to the USSR in exchange for financial compensation. After a meeting with officials from other major exporting countries, only Argentina announced it would not cooperate. Australia, Canada, and the EC agreed to ship no more than "normal and traditional" amounts to the USSR during the embargo. In practice, "normal and traditional" provided considerable latitude for interpretation. For example, Canadian officials interviewed indicated that they thought Canada's commitment was only for the remainder of the 1979/80 crop year..."

Short-Term Effects

(Highlights only from a USDA report)

"The 1980 embargo denied the USSR 10-17 million tons of U.S. grain during the first year, representing the amount the USSR needed to obtain from other sources to prevent a decline in domestic consumption. The ultimate effect on the world market and the United States depends on the extent to which the USSR made up for the reduction in U.S. imports."

"...The USSR primarily pursued the option of replacing U.S. grain with that from other suppliers and increasing imports of substitute commodities."

..."The EC continued to ship some grain to the USSR after the embargo was imposed because previously issued export licenses could not be revoked. With this exception, the EC apparently complied with the embargo with its commitment made to the United States. Canada also complied with the embargo but only until the 1979/80 crop year ended in June. In the following crop year, Canadian exports to the USSR increased sharply. The Canadian Government officially announced its withdrawal from participation in the embargo at the end of November 1980. Australia subsequently increased its exports to the USSR in 1979/80, but this increase was already specified in an existing long-term supply agreement between the two countries."

"The United States reduced wheat sales to the USSR by 3.2 million tons and corn sales by 7.1 million tons. The United States was unable to make up its loss in the wheat market with larger sales to other markets. Increased U.S. corn exports to other markets helped to offset the decline in corn exports to the USSR. The reverse was true for the USSR; that is, the USSR made up the loss of U.S. wheat but could not replace U.S. corn..."

"The USSR succeeded in replacing much of the embargoed U.S. grain...However, the USSR had to change its commodity mix of imports and had to pay a premium for Argentine grain to replace embargoed grain. World wheat and barley trade to the USSR increased at the expense of corn trade, and world livestock trade to the USSR increased at the expense of all grain trade. Our best estimate is that the embargo reduced USSR grain equivalent of higher imports of livestock products..."

Comments: For years and years after the Carter grain embargo, I remember hearing about the trade sanction move from farmers attending Pro Farmer seminars. Farmers' remarks went, in essence, as follows:

"Of all the negative things the U.S. government could do or have done to agriculture, this one has hurt the most, with long-lasting consequences because it meant the U.S. could be an unreliable supplier and it sent the signal to big importers to expand their supply sources and in turn to supplying countries to increase their production."

Those are truly long-term impacts that while hard to quantify have stuck around for years and years. It generated debate about and legislation involving contract sanctity. But it also helped fuel the dramatiac growth in South America's agricultural production.

excerpted from Carter Grain Embargo, AgWeb, Oct 31, 2002



Soldiers playing Santa in Afghanistan (hand out shoe boxes of trinkets to destitute of war-ravaged nation). Canoe.com, Dec 20, 2003




Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com