EC MINISTERS DISAGREE OVER ENDING SUBSIDIES

EC MINISTERS DISAGREE OVER ENDING SUBSIDIES

European Community agriculture ministers Wednesday ended the first round of their 1988-89 farm price talks at odds over subsidies to farmers in three weak-currency nations, officials said.

Ireland, France and Italy refused to end the EC's green currency system of border subsidies and taxes that even out currency fluctuations, officials said.Under its farm price package for the 1988-89 marketing year that began April 1, the EC Commission has proposed to end these subsidies and levies on intra-EC farm trade, except for Greece.

A commission official said retaining subsidies for farmers in other weak- currency nations would require extra funds that the near-bankrupt EC does not have.

The commission, for budgetary reasons, cannot give in to specific requests to retain the subsidies, he said. We are ready to seek a reasonable compromise, but only on the price package in its entirety.

The comment reflected the commission's determination to defend its 1988-89 price package that began April 1. The package was put together under orders of the government leaders of the 12 EC nations.

The commission seeks to limit spending on subsidies for the EC's 10.3 million farmers to 27.5 billion European currency units, or $33.8 billion, this year.

This is the same as in 1987 and follows years of runaway spending led to over-production and trade frictions with the United States.

The farm ministers formally agreed to impose stabilizers on EC's farm spending. Agreed to by the EC summit meeting last February, these will curb production as soon as output levels and spending reach a fixed level.

The ministers opened their first round of discussions on the 1988-89 price package Monday. The meeting ended early Wednesday, and a second round will be held May 16-17 in Brussels.

It is premature to expect the ministers will reach a common agreement by then, the commission official said.

In recent years the farm price talks have dragged on for many months in often round-the-clock meetings with the ministers wearing each other down to get concessions. The negotiations have rarely been concluded before April 1 when the new marketing year begins for some products.

Officials said they expected this year's negotiations to be completed in early June.