THE LAST tranche of beef special premium claims before the single farm payment is introduced will be slashed by almost 30% after a final rush breached the national ceiling, says the Rural Payments Agency.

Farmers keen to secure BSPS cash before it disappeared meant the number of claims made at the end of 2004 was higher than normal, said National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster. An extension period at the beginning of this year also helped, he added.

However, Mr Forster said the cut was not out of the blue. “After a 25% scaleback in Northern Ireland we were expecting something similar.”

 Chris Dodds of the Livestock Auctioneers Association said some farmers may have lost out, but many would have submitted more claims meaning their overall payment for the year might not have been reduced.

 Richard Haddock, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “At least we are not sending anything back to Brussels.”