31 March 2000
Blair is committed to farmers — NFU

By FWi staff

TONY BLAIRS 203 million aid package for farmers shows that the Prime Minister is committed to farmers, says the National Farmers Union.

Mr Blair pledged 26m to restructure the pig sector, 22m each in agrimoney compensation for dairy, sheep and beef farmers, and 60m for hill farmers.

He also announced the removal of the weight limit for older cattle slaughtered under the Over Thiry Months Scheme to keep BSE out of the food chain.

Most of the money will come from the Ministry of Agriculture. But a further 15m of government cash will also help farmers diversify and restructure.

Ben Gill, NFU president, described the package as a clear and positive sign of the Governments commitment to the future of the agricultural industry.

Mr Gill said in a statement from the union: “I believe the Prime Minister deserves recognition for these measures.”

But he added: “Of course, the problems in farming are so broad and so deep that there is no quick fix which can turn the industry round.

“I recognise that some producers will be disappointed. But overall, there is a lot in this package, especially when you look behind the headline figures.”

“The only sustainable way of improving the position of farmers is to ensure that they obtain a better return from the market,” said Mr Gill.

However, the NFU president voiced particular disappointment that the prime minister failed to announce there is no new money for arable farmers.

A three-year restructuring package for pig farmers, worth 26 million in the first year, was achieved by the National Pig Association.

Hill farmers will have their support maintained at levels equivalent to previous years with 60 million aid – for which the NFU lobbied intensely.

But Mr Gill said other announcements in addition to the money, including Mr Blairs pledge to clamp down on red tape, were equally important.

It was important that retailers committed themselves to the development of a code of practice to ensure that all trading partners are treated fairly and equally.

Mr Gill said: “This must be swiftly turned into reality.”

“The Prime Minister has also promised his continued intervention which I believe to be significant. This is a start on which we must all build.”