16 April 1999

Threat of legal action if IACS form not withdrawn

By Robert Davies

A MONMOUTHSHIRE farmer is threatening legal action unless the Welsh Office Agriculture Department withdraws its 1999 IACS form.

Gerald Meddick, Cefnllwyd, Pontypool, who is involved in a separate dispute with officials over common grazing rights on Edlogan Common, claims that the wording of the form, which is different from the one used in England, makes it impossible to complete it truthfully.

"It asks how many grazing rights are registered in my name in 1999, to which the honest answer is none, because my holdings 269 rights have passed through three sets of hands since the 1965 registration," Mr Meddick insists. "If I write down any figure I will be committing a technical offence, which could affect my eligibility for support payments." He claims that the WAOD office at Llandrindod Wells told him to attach a note to the completed form pointing out that the rights are registered to the farm, but not to him. This he refuses to do because the note would not have legal status, and he could be accused of giving false information on the signed IACS form.

"There is also a matter of principle. A system that allows civil servants to penalise farmers who make the smallest mistake should work both ways. If there is an error in the wording of a form it should be withdrawn and a new one sent out."

The Farmers Union of Wales says that WOAD officials have admitted verbally that the form uses "an unfortunate choice of words", but promise that there will be no attempt to catch farmers out.

But in the light of possible serious consequences of making a false declaration and the fast approaching May 15 deadline for returning applications, the FUW has requested urgent written guidance for its members.

"Most rights were registered in the distant past and have passed to either subsequent generations or new occupiers without there being any change to the actual registration details," a spokesman said. "In theory many people with common grazing rights will end up committing a technical offence if they sign the form as it stands."

While farming unions are prepared to accept a written WOAD guarantee that this will not lead to any penalty, Mr Meddick is not and plans to consult a solicitor.

A WOAD spokesman said that any farmer concerned about the wording should consult the local divisional IACS officer. But he insisted that the wording was the same as in 1998 and no amended version would be issued. &#42

Devon town first to use cow power

PLANNERS have approved a £7m biogas scheme which will make a Devon town the first community in Britain to be powered by cow manure.

Members of Torridge District Councils planning committee this week voted 14-4 to approve the building of a plant on the outskirts of Holsworthy to generate electricity from methane.

"Naturally we are very pleased," said Charles Clarke, project officer for Holsworthy Biogas Company and the driving force behind the scheme. "Now the hard work begins."

Around 50 farmers in the area have agreed that their herds will provide raw material for the methane plant via new slurry storage tanks supplied to farms by the company.

The pasteurised slurry will be returned to farms as a fertiliser once it has been processed.

The project should pump two megawatts of electricity into the National Grid, enough to run Holsworthys two schools, hospital, sports facilities, swimming pool and 300 of its homes.

There are plans to set up a new mains network so many of the towns buildings will be heated by the plant.

The Biogas Company has already won £3.5m of EU funding for the project. &#42

BCMSto offer cattle passports via e-mail link

THE British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) has extended its computer system so that farmers can now use e-mail to apply for cattle passports.

Producers have, for some time, been able to notify BCMS of cattle movements by e-mail for some time. The system has now been developed so that passport applications can also be made, provided the animals are still on their holding of birth.

While preprinted application forms are used by the majority of farmers, the government is keen to promote the use of electronic data transfer, claiming it is faster and more accurate.

Passport and cattle movement information can be transferred electronically to BCMS by the CATTLemail system, developed by the NFU and ADAS, which can be accessed via the farmers weekly internet site www.fwi.co.uk.

Farmers wishing to take advantage of the new technology must first complete an application form, available from MAFF. (Contact 01483-403 660 or e-mail enquiries@sis.maff.gov.uk). &#42

Alan Taylor, head chef at the Farmers Club, London, is the first chef to complete a special butchery food safety course at Smithfield market. Mr Taylor was the guinea pig for a new course designed specifically for chefs. He said the training would allow him to make the best use of the various cuts of British meat served in the club. Presenting Mr Taylor with his award is Roger Moore, Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers and chairman of Buccleuch Scottish Beef.