WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States and Russia today agreed on a $625 million aid package that will send 3.1 million tons of food _ including corn, rice, pork and beef _ to the ailing country.

The United States also will pay $260 million to transport the food.

``This understanding is good news for the Russian people who might otherwise face the possibility of food shortages this winter,'' Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said. The package also is good news for America's farmers, who have suffered from large supplies and low prices this year, he said.

The first shipments are expected to reach Russia sometime next month.

About half the food is provided free. The rest is being sold to Russia under a 20-year loan.

Under the deal, the United States will donate 1.5 million tons of wheat to Russia. Another 100,000 tons of various commodities will be donated to private voluntary organizations in Russia to benefit underprivileged groups.

With the loan, Russia will purchase 500,000 tons of corn, 300,000 tons of soybean meal, 200,000 tons of soybeans, 200,000 tons of wheat, 100,000 tons of rice, 120,000 tons of beef, 50,000 tons of pork and 30,000 tons of nonfat dry milk.

Glickman had said Wednesday the two countries were close to a decision and were working out assurances from Russia that the food will go to people who need it and not be siphoned off by officials. The United States also wanted Russia's promise that the food would not face customs duties or other taxes.

``Key issues involving distribution, monitoring and accountability were successfully resolved today in Moscow,'' Glickman said. He said the food will be exempt from duties and taxes.

Russia has been hit hard by economic problems coupled with the worst grain harvest in 40 years. Food prices have risen about 50 percent due to the country's financial crisis, prompting worries that the poor won't be able to afford food. Food imports have dramatically fallen off.

This is the first time in years that the Russians have had to look abroad for significant food aid. The United States provided food aid in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.