31 March 2000
Arable farmers dismayed at package

By FWi staff

ARABLE farmers have expressed their dismay that their sector will receive no money from Tony Blairs aid package.

The government had the option to apply for agrimoney aid to compensate cereal producers for the strength of Sterling, but it was left out of the package.

The Ulster Farmers Union said it was a major disappointment that the arable sector was completely excluded, and vowed to keep fighting for local growers.

Speaking after the Downing Street summit, Will Taylor, UFU president, said Mr Blair had provided a short-term boost, but only to some sections of the industry.

Many farmers in the province are predicted to earn nothing this year. The package signalled little change in Mr Blairs approach to farming, said Mr Taylor.

“A longer-term commitment from government is still essential.”

Agrimoney funding released by the government to the industry was still less than one-third of the total budget available, he added.

Jim Walker, Scottish NFU president, said: “We are acutely disappointed about the lack of compensation to which the cereals sector is entitled.

“We have been unable to overcome deep-seated and unjustified resistance in Westminster to supporting this sector.”

Mr Walker stressed that the overall package announced at Downing Street could not be seen as a panacea for Scottish farming.

But he added: “The measures announced, spread across most sectors, should give us a little confidence that this government is prepared to engage with the industry and assist us to become more competitive.”