26 November 1999

Action against Brown to cost pig men £100,000

By Alistair Driver

THE UK pig industry is close to agreeing a method of raising the estimated £100,000 needed to finance legal action against farm minister Nick Brown.

Producers are being asked by the British Pig Industry Support Group and the National Pig Association to pay a voluntary 2p/pig levy. The levy will be deducted by processors, who are being asked to match producer contributions with similar sums of their own. Organisers want the scheme to start on the week ending Dec 13 and to last for an initial period of 20 weeks.

The British Meat Federation has indicated it is keen to support the legal fund, which is to be administered by the NPA, and is sending details to its members.

Early feedback from the industry suggests large-scale support for legal action against Mr Brown and for the method of financing it, said Lincs producer and BPISG treasurer Meryl Ward who is organising the action.

The legal process will be in two stages. Initially an application seeking leave to move for judicial review against Mr Brown will be lodged, which, if granted, would be followed by the second stage. BPISG estimates that both stages could cost up to £50,000.

The central aim is to win compensation for pig producers who claim to have been "discriminated" against by the government which, the producers say, has landed pig producers with a bill of £80m a year to comply with BSE safety measures.

The NPA also plans to make a joint presentation with MAFF to the EU Commission to ask for permission for the pig industry to be compensated by the UK government for the "BSE tax".

A recent application by MAFF was turned down because it was judged to be a plea for short-term aid in response to poor prices, which is not allowed under EU law, according to NPA producer group chairman Stewart Houston.

But in informal meetings with commission officials, he and British Pig Executive chairman Richard Campbell were well received when they put their case forward, he said.

"We explained that the industry has been seeking relief from the "BSE tax" ever since the UK meat and bonemeal (MBM) ban was introduced – in the form of porcine-only rendering plants, for example," he said.

"We pointed out that we are not seeking state aid to give us a competitive advantage but are looking for compensation to redress a competitive disadvantage. The MBM ban is not in place elsewhere in the EU and has been imposed on us because of what happened in another sector." &#42