Beef loophole angers farmers
By Alistair Driver
A CONTROVERSIAL interpretation by the Ministry of Agriculture of its new Beef Slaughter Premium Scheme could cost farmers thousands of pounds.
MAFF officials are preventing claims being made under the scheme on cattle that have returned to the same farm unsold from market, or live from the abattoir.
The scheme was introduced just two weeks ago on, 1 January, in an attempt to compensate farmers for lower beef intervention prices.
To be eligible for payment, cattle must have been held at the owners farm for a two month “retention period” prior to slaughter.
But MAFFs current interpretation of the relevant European directive requires animals to start the retention period again every time they leave a farm.
That effectively rules out a lot of cattle from the scheme, especially if they are animals which have returned to the same farm unsold from livestock markets.
The problem came to light when Staffordshire farmer John Parrot returned from Penkridge market with an unsold bull.
On checking with MAFF, he was told he would not be able to claim the slaughter premium, worth 16.92, unless he kept the animal for another 60 days.
Mr Parrot said: “It is simply not economical to do that with a bull that has come to the end of its productive use.”
Kevin Pearce, livestock adviser for the National Farmers Union, said the issue was potentially “very serious” and could could affect a lot of farmers.
The NFU is seeking clarification on the issue from MAFF and is hopeful the Ministry will change its interpretation on further consideration, he said.
“If MAFF sticks to its original interpretation, it could affect a lot of farmers and make the whole scheme a shambles.”
A MAFF spokesman said the ministry had been made aware of the problem and had asked its lawyers to look re-examine its interpretation of the rules.