From the S&S archives: Soybean embargo was an error, says Butz

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz at the opening of the 1974 American Food Festival at the Tokyo Ryutsu Center.


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: April 19, 1974

TOKYO — Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz Wednesday publicly ate crow over the 1973 American curb on soybean exports, calling it "a very serious mistake" and promising Japan it could rely on the United States as a dependable future food supplier.

Asked by an American correspondent at the Japan National Press Club where he spoke how this promise would be affected by impeachment moves, which might shorten President Nixon's term, Butz made a vigorous defense of the American chief executive.

He said Nixon had stated he does not intend to resign, "and I am personally convinced he means that." lie added that if presidents were turned out on the basis of Gallup Polls only, only Dwight Eisenhower would have survived his full term.

"Watergate was an incredibly stupid act by a small number of overzealous politicians escalated to a great national story primarily for political reasons," he continued.

He added that if Nixon were to be held responsible for the "bad acts of his staff" he should equally be credited with his international initiatives for peace, monetary stability and food distribution.

On his first visit to Japan since the restrictions choked off the supply of soybeans to a nation dependent on the United States for 92 per cent of this protein element in the Japanese diet, Butz said he had not realized the magnitude of the situation until he got here.

He said the move resulted from political pressure following rising food prices and Japan was not consulted because of fear it would touch off speculation.

"I think it taught us we should never do it again," he said, adding that he had resisted pressure four or five months ago from American bakers and cotton growers to impose similar restraints.