WASHINGTON -- President Bush agreed yesterday to dispatch a team of U.S. experts to the Soviet Union, where it will study food distribution problems, in part to determine the potential impact of $1.5 million in U.S. grain credits that the Soviets have requested.
Mr. Bush made the decision in consultation with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, whom he telephoned about 9 a.m. yesterday fromCamp David. The two leaders talked for about 45 minutes on arms control and economics, said White House spokesman William Harlow.
Food was at the top of the agenda because the Soviet economy is struggling to get supplies from farms to store shelves and onto the dinner table.
Although hunger is becoming a serious problem in the Soviet Union, Mr. Bush has been reluctant to approve Mr. Gorbachev's request for U.S. grain for fear that such sales would do nothing to improve an inefficient food delivery system and might only aggravate the problem, administration officials say.
The team, led by Undersecretary of Agriculture Richard T. Crowder, is to analyze problems in food distribution, recommend solutions and offer the White House advice on handling the grain deal, Mr. Harlow said.
He said the food distribution team would also include Edward Hewett, Mr. Bush's special assistant for Soviet affairs, and Eugene J. McAllister, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs.