INDEPENDENT NEWS

US Farmers Call For More Tariffs

Published: Wed 22 Sep 1999 09:34 AM
US farmers are calling for more tariffs saying they merely help pay for American infrastructure which supports importers while in a related story, Britain has approved an emergency aid package, converted to NZ dollars, of $ 450 million to help farmers. John Howard reports.
"It is argued that tariffs raise the cost to consumers but looked at another way, why should those exporting into America be subsidised by the American taxpayer for all the infrastructure which supports their product when it arrive on our shores," said Texas farmer Alan Meztger.
"Farmers and some congressmen are now saying that Americans have already paid for the infrastructure and a tariff makes importers help pay for part of that. Our experience shows that costs to consumers are generally not lower because of no tariffs, instead, they are being used to subsidise company profits," he said.
"It's time to stop giving other countries a free ride into America," Mr Metzger added. Farming organisations across America are furiously lobbying candidates in the presidential election race.
While in Britain, a $NZ 450 million emergency aid package to help farmers and to rid the meat industry of swathes of red tape was announced yesterday by Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister.
Mr Brown said last night that with the increased EU aid of $NZ 870 million, the total support for farmers was more than $NZ 1.5 billion and showed that he wanted to do everything "to get rural Britain through these difficult times."
He said the settlement showed the government was listening to farmers but he made it clear there would be no more cash on the table for them.
His remarks were made in advance of today's bleak audit of farmers by the National Farmers Union (NFU) which gives the most depressing record of the state of the industry. More than 70 per cent say they have no confidence in their future as farmers.
Last night Ben Gill, the president of NFU, said he was grateful for the extra money but it fell far short of their expectations and would do nothing to abate the anger of farmers, who are to mount a protest at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.
"This package will relieve some of the symptoms of the present crisis," Mr Gill said. "What is now urgent is to tackle the root cause: excessive bureaucratic and regulatory costs." His more outspoken verdict is expected today at the launch of the audit.
Agriculture Minister Brown has accepted that the meat industry is not playing on a level playing field with other EU states and that rules have been more strictly interpreted in the UK than they should have been.
The emergency aid package was welcomed in Wales by Alun Michael, the First Secretary, and Christine Gwyther, the Agriculture Secretary, who said that it would bring an extra $NZ 60 million to Welsh farmers.
ENDS

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