16 October 1998

Aid package noises made

FARM minister Nick Brown has given the clearest indication yet that emergency aid for the worst-hit farmers is on the cards.

During an interview on the BBCs On The Record programme on Sunday, Mr Brown said farmers had put forward a very persuasive case. He stressed that it was not a case of the industry looking for more and more handouts from government. "They are asking for a particular, targeted intervention which has quite a strong case for it, in particular in context of the current crisis," he said.

Mr Brown added that the possibility of agrimonetary compensation was under active consideration, and he made numerous references about the need to help hill farmers, in particular.

He said he had also instructed MAFF officials to look again at the decision to axe the calf processing scheme on Nov 30. Farmers pleas for the scheme to be extended, especially if the beef ban had not been lifted, "was quite a strong case", Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown also promised to investigate claims that the Ministry of Defence was not buying any UK lamb.

and said he hoped to meet supermarket bosses soon. But he would not back claims that supermarkets were making excessive profits at the expense of farmers. "I dont want to set people up as villains and victims. That is not helpful. I want them to work together," he said.

NFU president Ben Gill said the ministers comments could give hope to farmers during a time when the industry was at its most vulnerable.