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BCMSblamed for late livestock aid payments

16 August 2002

BCMSblamed for late livestock aid payments

By FWreporters

THE NFU has been accused of conducting a smear campaign against grass-roots farmers in an attempt to thwart talks with dairy companies over milk prices.

Senior NFU officials telephoned NFU Scotland president Jim Walker urging him not to attend a meeting between the Farmers For Action pressure group and Robert Wiseman Dairies last Sat (Aug 10), FARMERS WEEKLY can reveal. But Mr Walker refused to comply with their demands.

While NFU leaders in England are seeking to minimise any positive publicity for Farmers For Action, Mr Walker claimed that everyone should be fighting for the same result – profitable farming. He said: "I am happy to meet anyone who has that aim.

"The NFU in the south does not control NFU Scotland, and it most certainly does not control me. People can agree or disagree with Farmers For Actions tactics, but everyone involved in that organisation is totally committed to our industry and they can see no other way to get people to listen."

It is also alleged that Dairy Crest officials were invited to the meeting and were contacted by the NFU. A company spokeswoman was investigating the claim as FARMERS WEEKLY went to press on Wed (Aug 14). But an NFU spokeswoman said she could find no evidence that any such conversations took place.

Low prices

The meeting with Robert Wiseman Dairies failed to achieve a better milk price. Mr Walker has asked NFUS members to consider whether they should take direct action as individual farmers. He added. "The government and big businesses are laughing at us, and that cannot be allowed to continue."

Farmers For Action is asking its supporters not to sell any produce for 24 hours on Friday, 23 August. The aim is to highlight the low prices paid to producers. Mr Walker said it would be difficult for NFUS to be involved in direct action as an organisation because it could be held liable for any losses inflicted on affected businesses.

The Farmers For Action strike has won support from unexpected quarters – including anti-GM campaigners. A radical green group, Grassroots Action on Food and Farming, said it backed the day of action. The group is a new organisation helping to build a network of farmers and environmentalists to oppose the demise of small family farms.

The groups spokeswoman Kathryn Tulip said: "Grass-roots environmentalists recognise that unless farmers get a fair price for their produce they will be unable to deliver healthy food, wildlife, the environment and high animal welfare standards. If we dont want big corporate owned production units, then we must support our small and family farmers."

Farmers For Action chairman David Handley said: "I dont care if it is the NFU that gets a milk price rise, we need one desperately. We have been working closely with the environmental movement for sometime. By joining forces and presenting a united voice we feel much progress can be made in alerting the wider public to the issues." &#42

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BCMSblamed for late livestock aid payments

16 August 2002

BCMSblamed for late livestock aid payments

By John Burns

South-west correspondent

THE vice-chairman of the NFUs livestock committee has called for heads to roll at the British Cattle Movement Service because of continuing delays in livestock subsidy payments.

The Rural Payments Agency admitted last week that farmers were owed £63m in 2001 livestock scheme balancing payments. It blamed delays on the need to cross-check claims with information held on the BCMS database.

Devon farmer Richard Haddock said he had got three different stories when he talked to DEFRA, RPA and BCMS about the delays.

"It is clear to me that many of the payments are being held up because BCMS is claiming it has no record of some of the animals on which claims have been made for support payments. The fact is their system was set up for disease control purposes, not for cross-referencing with the RPA."

Mr Haddock, who runs more than 300 suckler cows, said there had been several occasions when he sent batches of calf registrations to BCMS electronically, but no passport was sent for one calf in each batch.

"And we have cows which BCMS says do not exist. We have successfully claimed suckler cow premium on them over the past eight years and in that time they have been physically inspected three times by ministry staff."

FARMERSWEEKLY Inter- actives Talking Point recently carried a series of items on mix-ups and errors on the cattle database run by BCMS.

Several farmers, who tried to meet their obligation to check that that information held was correct, reported inputting mistakes.

The RPA announced this week that after sustained pressure from the NFU and other industry representatives, extra staff and resources would be allocated to clear the backlog.

Some of the work from the Exeter office in Devon is to be transferred to other offices, mainly Newcastle-upon -Tyne.

But the delays are leaving farmers unable to pay bills without incurring extra interest and arrangement fees for extending overdrafts.

One producer who is furious about this is Ian Pettyfer, who runs suckler cows and sheep with his son Jim in Devon.

In a letter to DEFRA permanent secretary, Brian Bender, Mr Pettyfer said the situation had become quite unacceptable.

"To have a delay this year after all the problems and expense we suffered in the past 12 months is quite intolerable. We have a mortgage instalment to meet and bills accruing interest," he said.

Officials at the British Cattle Movement Service were unavailable for comment. &#42

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