Polish Communist Party leader Edward Gierek said today that his economy troubled government would welcome American help to ease a lingering agriculture crisis and meat shortages here.

Nonetheless, Gierek said, Poland would take a touch stand against American pressure for stepped-up emigration by Poles to the United States.

In an hour-long interview at party headquarters on the eve of President Carter's visit, Gierek spoke of Polish-American relations as being "broader in scope and more fruitful than ever before.

Carter arrives at a time when Gierek faces serious economics problems. The President's visit, it is hoped, will produce an offer of additional long-term credits that would enable Poland to purchase several million more tons of U.S. feed grains.

"It is hard to say what the President is bringing," Gierek said, "But naturally we would be glad if he could bring a proposal that might make things easier for us at this relatively difficult time. But the situation is not one which if we do not get beneficial credit, that something wrong will happen."

The Unite States, in turn is expected to press Gierek to improve poland's record on allowing reunification of families separated between the two countries.

Gierek, however, takes a strong position on this. Poland lost six million people during World War II and is the only country in Europe to build up to beyond its pre-war population. The Poles are proud of tha growth.

In the last six years, the Polish chief out, 14,000 persons have been given permission to emigrate to the United States.

"But let me say that Poland cannot afford and will not conduct a policy of encouraging emigration. There are a number of cases of applications to leave for the United States actually anti-humanitarian - of people who want to go for materialistic reasons, who are fleeing from their families. Such cases," he said, "cannot be tolerated. All other cases will be handled in a positive manner."

Despite Polish interest in U.S. economic projects, Gierek said it was the timing of Carter's visit that gives it "special character."

The visit, he said, comes when "a number of international issues - questions of detente, new strategic arms negotiations and troop reduction talks" demand attention. He made clear that aside from purely U.S.-Polish affairs, the meeting here would have an international dimension.

In the past several months, the 64-year-old former coalminer - who has been first secretary of the Communist Party for the past seven years - has been doing a remarkable amount of traveling and entertaining for the chief of a Soviet stellite country. Carter will be for eighth head of state or government - plus the Pope - Gierek will have met since tne summer.

Asked if all this meant that his government - taking advantage of his solid standing within the Warsaw pact and generally good relations with the West as Well - was now taking on a broader role in moderating East-West affairs generally, Gierek said that Poland was "first a part and parcel of the socialist system, but it is not only a mere member of that system."

"At the same time," he said, "we posses our own status" deriving from Poland's geographic position as the "most sensitive spot in Europe" and from its economic importance. These make Poland behind the Soviet Union, "the second largest country in the socialist community.

Gierek talked of Poland's past, its sufferings in war and its traditions so that "aside from those general principles of the socialist system, there are other matters that we must pay special attention to and will continue to do so.

He laid heavy stress on defense and disarmament and the search for peace. He said that Poland had "its own concepts linked with international detente and I think it is here that one should sense the special character of Poland's position" that the question referred to.

Thus Gierek put into his own terms one of Moscow's key objectives - to get the White House to halt to development of the neutron bomb.

He volunteered to an interviewer that halting the arms race demanded not only a halt to nuclear proliferation but also an end to introducing of new weapons.

"One would be only deluding ones self by claiming that a new piece of military hardware can in any way change the present balance of forces. Instead, what it can do would be to touch off one more new phone in the arms race and lower the so-called nuclear threshold. Prospects like these give rise to deep concern all over Europe.

"We can only hope," he added, "that production of the neutron bomb will be discontinued."

Carter's visit here has taken on special significance because of several factors; Poland's rather unique position wihtin the Soviet-bloc; its traditional links to the United States through some six million Polish-Americans; its generally independent-minded population of some 35 million people, and its active and powerful Catholic church which is the major religious community still functions in Eastern Europe.

Gierek's foreign forays have undoubtedly also been aimed at boosting his prestige at home with a population made angry by long meat lines and shortages of housing and consumer goods.

Seated in his spacious office he spoke candidly about Poland's problems and the difficulties in solving them. He is optimistic, he said, that there is enough understanding among the people to allow at least some of the recovery plans to work over time. "We have never concealed our existing difficulties from the public. On the contrary," he added "we speak freely of them."

Twice in its post-war history, bitterness over bread-and-butter issues have caused worker uprisings here that have led to the overthrow of governments. Last year, an attempt to raise artificially low meat prices by 60 per cent caused new uprisings, forcing the Gierek government to back down.

Asked how he will solve the need for higher prices. Gierek admitted that "the question of increasing meat prices is rather out of the question for the near future. If we make a decision to do this, it would have to be based on the firm conviction that it would be acceptable to the people.

"The question then arises of how to get out of the difficulties we have in the meat field. Naturally, the best thing to do would be to follow your example and simply regulate supply and demand by price policies. But since at this moment at least we are not able to do that, we will have to increase meat production and process it in the most efficient way so as to improve productivity and cover as many people as possible."

It is to help improve meat production that the Poles are counting both on U.S. grain and expanded.

Poland is also unique in the Soviet bloc because the majority of its farms are run by private farmers and many small shops have also been allowed to remain under private ownership. Recently Gierek also allowed small state-owned shops to be managed privately, and now estimates they number about 10,000.

Will there be more of this mixture within the socialist economy "We will have to watch how the experiments we are now conducting will succeed. In any rate, we are interested, especially in small special stores run by family," he added.

Gierek also points out that the recent extension of state pensions to private farmers - a move to encourage more efficient farming - is not only an advance in the socialist world but in the West as well.

Gierek talked proudly of the Polish accomplishments following the devastation of World War II. "We have soled the problem of work, health care, education, old age pensions. What remains boils down to a few questions."

One of those is housing, a major irritant to many poles. Gierek estimated that by 1985-86 Poland will reach the goal of "an independent apartment for every Polish family."

Gierek claims to be "perfectly confident that the vast majority approve party and government policy. The shortcomings in market supplies cannot make people happy. But they know that the only way to eliminate them is by increasing production. Apart from this, they are aware of progress in the overall picture of the country and, in spite of all the difficulties, they also perceive progress in their own lives."

Gierek believes people understand "the underlying causes" of the problems and that there is a growing sense of responsibility of the entire society.'"

Faced with this need for bringing the various sectors of Poland's potentially volatile society together, Gierek recently held unprecendeted meetings, first with Polish primate Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski and then in Italy with the Pope.

Gierek talked about "patriotic unity" and the need to consolidate "in the spirit of traditional Polish tolerance," a state of affairs marked by an absence of conflict between church and state. That view that has been echoed somewhat by recent church statements reflecting a need for national unity.