Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Aims Technical Aid at Former Soviet Farms

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Aims Technical Aid at Former Soviet Farms

Article excerpt

UNITED States nonprofit organizations, universities, and some businesses are pitching in to help the former Soviet Union reform its troubled agricultural system as it moves toward a market economy.

Western humanitarian aid provided short-term solutions to food shortages this past winter, but there is a great need for US technical assistance, training, and equipment, according to US experts and officials of the former Soviet republics.

At a recent seminar sponsored by the Geonomics Institute of Middlebury, Vt., agricultural leaders from the US and the republics discussed Western responses to Soviet food shortages.

"I hope we will be able to solve our {problems} with the help of our American colleagues, with the help of American businesses. I don't mean humanitarian aid. We are more interested in your technology, your know-how," said Urazildy Baimuratov, chairman of the Subcommittee for Economic Reform for the republic of Kazakhstan.

The US government will probably provide limited technical assistance to Soviet farmers, amounting to no more than $100 million by year's end, according to a Western agricultural expert who asked not to be named. And while US private industry has provided some technical assistance, most has come from nonprofit organizations and universities, US experts say.

Soviet farms, considered inefficient and outdated, need as much Western assistance as possible, the experts say. The old government-controlled agricultural system, with farms run by collectives, is decentralizing its authority, transferring more power to an increasing number of individual farmers. These private farms and the old cooperatives face severe problems in getting their output intact to market as well as hyperinflation. Meanwhile, the changing system is supported by only a patchwork of economic reforms and new privatization laws.

The republics need help in making this transition, even if the US government can't step in with a full-fledged aid program, agricultural specialists say.

ALTHOUGH US assistance is "not a huge program dollar wise, it can have a tremendous impact," says Earl Teeter, who works with international programs of the Extension Service of the US Department of Agriculture. …

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