14 November 1997

Anger at lazy slur

CUMBRIA farmers have reacted with fury at farm minister Jack Cunninghams accusation that cattle producers were using the over 30-month scheme as a lazy way to get cheques in their pockets.

Dr Cunningham made the comment when he gave evidence to the commons agriculture committee last week. OTMS costs were set to exceed budget by £70m. And he blamed farmers for that overspend, saying some were choosing to slaughter cattle under the scheme rather than use normal market channels.

But at Cumbria NFU meeting, county chairman Jim Bland insisted: "Only someone who is crazy could think they could make something out of the OTMS."

Les Armstrong, Cumbrias delegate on the national livestock committee, added: "It worries me that if the minister does not understand the OTMS, what is he saying in Europe?" The NFU was doing everything it could to work with the government, he said. &#42