Europe slams new U.S. farm bill

Feb. 1, 2007 at 10:21 AM

BRUSSELS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Europe attacked U.S. proposals for a new farm bill Thursday, charging U.S. support-payment cuts were too small to break a world trade-talk deadlock.

"If we are to have a successful outcome to the Doha Round, the U.S. will need to propose more ambitious cuts and disciplines in trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies," European Commission agriculture spokesman Michael Mann said.

U.S. officials Wednesday proposed ending farm subsidies for an estimated 80,000 wealthy individuals as part of a plan to close loopholes and cut farm programs by $4.5 billion over 10 years.

The current bill, one of the most generous to farmers in history, expires Sept. 30.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said under the Bush administration proposal, farmers would no longer be able to collect "loan deficiency payments" when prices are low and then sell later when prices rise, The Washington Post reported.

He also said Washington would spend nearly $10 billion for conservation, wetlands restoration and the development of new biofuels.

The Doha Round of trade negotiations -- which began in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 -- seeks to lower trade barriers. Talks have been stalled since July over disagreements over cutting farm subsidies and lowering import taxes.

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