U.S. Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng Thursday defended U.S. proposals for reforming the world's farm trade through the removal of agricultural subsidies by the year 2000, and said that short-term adjustments to bring markets into balance can be made in the interim.

There is uncertainty outside the United States about what action Washington is prepared to take to redress the market imbalances before 2000.Diplomats attending the World Food Conference, where Mr. Lyng made his remarks, said it was the first time the agriculture secretary had publicly stated that the United States was prepared to take short-term measures independent of the long-term abolition of all subsidies.

Previously, it had been thought the only measure the United States would countenance would be to implement individual subsidy abolition measures before 2000, they said.

Referring to opponents of the U.S. proposal, Mr. Lyng told the conference that some say it goes too far, too fast. I say their proposals do not go far enough and do even that too timidly. Too many overlook the 10-year phase-in we proposed during which actions can be taken to make short-term adjustments.

U.S. sources at the conference said that while such measures would not be the minimum price fixing and market sharing recommended by the European Community, Mr. Lyng could well be referring to joint stock disposal measures. If so, this is a step toward progress in the current Uruguay Round talks of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, since the EC and the United States so far have had no common ground on how to handle the near- and mid-term imbalances on world commodity markets, they said. GATT is the international body that governs trade throughout much of the world.

Mr. Lyng said the U.S. proposal is needed for its simplicity in the face of complex spiderwebs of subsidies and trade barriers that currently infest trade policies and the international marketplace.

To the charge that farmers would never accept an agriculture policy without subsidies and import protection, Mr. Lyng said: Not true. The U.S. proposal enjoys the support of every major sector of our agricultural industry . . . and that includes bipartisan support as well.

He rejected criticism that the proposal would upset longstanding social and cultural relationships among rural people since this failed to recognize social and cultural changes being generated anyway be technological advance.

He also said those criticizing the proposal fail to see we are increasingly contributing to hunger, malnutrition, economic and political turmoil.

EC Commissioner Frans Andriessen, however, repeated the EC position that it is not possible or desirable to remove all farm subsidies, though that did not mean a reduction is not desirable. He said the EC had taken the initiative in cutting dairy production and stocks, but was not prepared to have this negated by output increases in other countries.