17 January 1996

Big vote in favour of more aid for lowland suckler producers

By Shelley Wright

LOWLAND suckler producers should receive proportionately more of the £50m beef aid, the UKs share of the latest EU beef package, than upland producers.

NFU council voted overwhelmingly to accept the proposal from the livestock committee, chaired by Martin Burtt, that while the money should be used to help all suckler producers, a higher headage payment should be made in the lowlands.

That was because farmers in those areas had not received any specific support from previous beef aid packages. The LFA committee had proposed a single payment rate regardless of where the suckler herds were based.

But despite LFA committee chairman, Tim Bennetts, arguments, the council rejected that option in favour of weighting the payments in favour of lowland producers. Mr Bennett said farmers in LFAs had little choice – they could farm sheep or beef – while those in the lowlands had more flexibility. But that was dismissed by Sir David Naish as an unfair argument.

Provisional figures suggested that even after hill livestock compensatory allowance payments, incomes in LFAs would be 20% down on last year, Mr Bennett added. And he said final decisions on how the money was allocated should be based on figures, not emotion.

Despite councils acceptance that more should go to lowland suckler producers the actual amounts were not discussed. Further analysis would be done before the NFU submitted its final proposal to government.

Both committees agreed that some of the £50m should also go to those selling finished cattle after Oct 1, 1996.

There was also total agreement that compensation should be given to veal producers, who had suffered the double whammy of lost markets and calf prices kept artificially high by the calf processing scheme.

Sir David said that to give the few veal producers the same level of compensation that beef farmers had so far had, roughly equivalent to half their losses, would cost about £50,000.

Martin Burtt favoured higher payment for lowland sucklers