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Squeezed US Dairy Farmers Given A Helping Hand

The US Agriculture Department (USDA) Wednesday announced US$125 million in direct cash payments to dairy farmers hurt by low prices, and another US$500,000 to help small farmers market and export their products. John Howard reports.

"Dairy farmers are being squeezed by market conditions that don't allow them a fair market price for their product," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

"This assistance is sorely needed to help keep many small and medium size dairy producers in business until prices stabilise," he said.

This new money is in addition to US$200 million distributed in the middle of last year.

Called the Dairy Market Loss Assistance programme, it provides payments based on the milk production of a dairy farm in 1997 and 1998. Eligible farmers who did not participate in the program last year, must sign up at their local farm service agency office or USDA service centre between January 24 to February 28, 2000.

The US$500,000 also announced is to help farmers develop new ways to market their products.

Under the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, universities in Vermont, Nebraska, Georgia, and Utah, will select and assist new marketing projects such as direct selling to restaurants and institutions, agri-tourism and pick-your-own farms.

The USDA will also provide technical assistance to help small farmers form cooperatives to export crops and livestock to international markets.

Other countries, including New Zealand, are likely to protest strongly at these new subsidies and perhaps file claims with the World Trade Organisation.

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