Thursday, 1 June, 2000

US farmers are set to receive an average $3750 (2500) each in extra aid this autumn, after Washingtons approval of another big financial package to offset the effects of depressed commodity prices.

The fund amounts to $7.1bn (4.8bn) and comes hot on the heels of the $15bn (10bn) paid in two tranches over the past 18 months.

And the US congress is forking out another $8bn (5.4bn) to modify the governments crop insurance programme.

This includes a $1.6bn (1.1bn) top-up to the state subsidy, enabling US farmers to take out more comprehensive policies for a lower premium.

EU commentators have been swift to criticise the move which, they say, undermines Washingtons own attack on European support for agriculture.

The fact that most of the money will be going out in August and September, before some of this years crops have been harvested, sows doubt on US claims that its aid is not trade distorting.

This is denied by US officials. “The payments relate to weak prices affecting last years crop,” said one.