A 14-member commission of United States agriculture leaders, including some prominent Republicans, met Monday in the Senate Agriculture Committee briefing room to call for a $2 billion increase in the government's international affairs budget and to urge Congress to keep the Agency for International Development independent of the State Department.
Half of the $2 billion increase should be spent on broad-based economic development projects, while the other $1 billion should go toward additional foreign affairs functions, said John Stovall of the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, a Washington think tank which organized the Commission on International Trade, Development and Cooperation.
Commission member Bob Thompson, a former Reagan administration official who now is president of Winrock International, said future increases in U.S. agricultural exports depend on development of Third World countries to increase the demand for food.
Michigan State University President Peter McPherson, who headed AID in the Reagan administration, said, "It would be a mistake to fold AID into the State Department" and disperse AID's "critical mass" of skilled technicians among State's geographic divisions.
McPherson said while he ran AID, he considered then-Secretary of State Schultz his "boss." But he added that AID's independence from the State Department made it possible for the U.S. government to take possibly contentious positions, for example, on family planning and banking deregulation in foreign countries, without publicly linking that position to the secretary of state or State Department officials in the countries involved.
The commission was chaired by former Cargill CEO Whitney MacMillan and included Dean Kleckner, president of the Republican-leaning National Farm Bureau Federation, and Leland Swenson, president of the Democrat-leaning National Farmers Union.
The commission's research was funded by Cargill, DowElanco, Farmland Industries, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Harvest States Co-op, AID and the Agriculture Department.