The European Commission offered measures worth $557m to help farmers facing economic
problems as they descended on Brussels to vent their anger, snagging traffic and clashing with police.

Farmers have been hard-hit by a Russian ban on European food exports, implemented amid political tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.

Slowing growth in China and a summer drought in Europe have contributed to the pressure on farms, whose incomes have plunged.

The commission unveiled its aid package on Monday as a special meeting of EU agriculture ministers convened on the issue. The measures include direct funding for member states, with the advice that the bulk of this should go to dairy farmers.

In addition, new storage schemes are to be set up for dairy produce and pork, while measures will be taken to boost exports outside the EU.

Farmers will be able to benefit "immediately" from the proposed measures, the commission's Vice President Jyrki Katainen said.

Ahead of the ministers' talks, thousands of farmers from across the 28-nation EU converged on Brussels, arriving on hundreds of tractors and snarling traffic during morning rush hour in the Belgium capital and on some highways leading into the city.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Brussels, said the farmers had been encouraged by protests carried out by French farmers last week, which had led to an immediate response from the government.

"They saw what happened last week when French farmers brought their tractors to the streets of Paris ... within a very short period of time, the French government had brought in new measures in favour of farmers.

"They're also very concerned about the negative effect the standoff between Russia and EU is having on agriculture... The Russians are retaliating by banning the import of products from EU, and that's having a big impact on farmers," Rowland said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies