6 June 1997

Beef men call for flexibility

BEEF farmers facing some of the lowest prices in 20 years are urging MAFF to introduce greater flexibility within environmentally sensitive area schemes.

They claim the input limits imposed by MAFF, coupled with drought conditions over the past two years, are making it impossible to grow commercial swards to finish beef extensively on grass.

Rachel Juster, NFU East Anglia senior policy officer, said the problem was particularly bad within the Suffolk River Valley ESA, where extensive cattle finishers are also facing problems posed by the over 30-month scheme.

Ms Juster claimed some farmers were so fed up with low beef prices, caused by the BSE crisis, that they wanted to turn their land back into arable production.

"More flexibility is needed to allow reseeding and the use of inputs to grow a commercially viable sward, which would help them to finish earlier," she added.

Paul Long, Country Landowners Association spokesman, said there was concern about the quality of grass swards both in the Suffolk River Valleys, which the CLA would like to see extended in size, and neighbouring Brecklands ESA.

The comments come as MAFF begins to review the stage two and three ESAs. Full consultation papers are due out in August.

Andrew Clark, NFU countryside officer, said the union was seeking to add the Quantock Hills within the Exmoor ESA.n