25 September 1998

US denies export talk

UNITED States officials have denied rumours the country is stepping up export programmes or abandoning the Freedom to Farm policy to ease the agricultural depression gripping the country.

The only change so far has been to grant short-term aid concessions to farmers, Philip Lader, the US ambassador, said during a visit to the Mapledurham Estate, Reading. "That $5bn (for the year to October 1998) they can get up front is to help them through this difficult period."

The collapse of Asian and Russian markets has caused havoc with exports and commodity prices. Farmers and ranchers have also been hit by losses as a result of natural disasters for which they are being compensated.

The Freedom to Farm programme, which cuts the link between financial support payments and specific commodities using area payments, was not to blame for US crop surpluses, he added.

Thomas Hamby, of the United States Agriculture Department, also denied the US planned to increase exports to shore up prices.

"We are not changing anything in relation to export restitutions," he said. "Beyond the credit guarantee programme, also worth $5bn, we have no specific targeted subsidies on any commodities." &#42