15 January 1999

Attack over OTMS

NATIONAL Beef Association leaders have launched a stinging attack on the farming unions for their failure to support attempts to have the over-30-month scheme (OTMS) payment rate cut in return for a lifting of the 560kg weight ceiling.

Robert Forster, NBA chief executive, said it was "entirely inappropriate for other farming organisations to support a mechanism where one group of farmers benefits at the expense of others".

The Country Landowners Association supports the NBA, and has also called for farmers unions to strive to make the scheme as even-handed as possible.

The NBA has again written to the farming unions seeking their support. Mr Forster believed the government would lift the weight ceiling, but only if the change was budget neutral. A cut of 6-7p/kg live- weight would, therefore, be needed.

The NFU in particular has consistently denounced the unfairness of the weight limit and the way it penalises those with heavier cattle. But although wanting the 560kg ceiling removed, the union is not prepared to accept a price cut.

Robert Robinson, NBA chairman, said there were farmers who regularly surrendered cows weighing about 700kg. For them the 560kg rule meant every fifth animal was, effectively, disqualified from compensation.

He added that latest Interven-tion Board figures showed that 51.86% of the cows going through the OTMS weigh more than 560kg.

"It is accepted that a cut of 6-7p a live kg would be needed to confirm with MAFF insistence that reform will only be undertaken if there is no extra cost to the government and it is clear other farmers organisations are alarmed that members with smaller cows would receive less money," Mr Robinson said.

That was inappropriate because compensation rates for lighter cows were being maintained only because farmers with cattle over 560kg were being penalised. &#42