22 March 2002

Brown faces F&Mgrilling

EURO-MPs will grill former UK farm minister, Nick Brown, next week over his handling of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The temporary committee, set up in Brussels to learn the lessons of the crisis, will hold an open session next Tue, Mar 26.

Chief vet Jim Scudamore, army commander Brigadier Birtwistle and Scottish farm minister Ross Finnie will also give evidence. The committee will sit for a year. &#42

EU tobacco growers will continue to reap the benefits of a k1bn/year (£610m/year) support regime for at least another three years, farm ministers agreed this week. But premium levels for low grade tobaccos are to be cut by 10%, while all producers will have to put more into a fund to research alternative crops and advise consumers of the dangers of smoking. This fund will take 3% of the premium in 2003.

BEEF producers in Co Donegal, Republic of Ireland are set to join the Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assurance Scheme. The members of Donegal Quality Beef Producers, who have been selling into Northern Ireland for many years, are said to be keen to join the scheme as it will give better access to UK supermarkets and enable the beef to be sold under the "red tractor" logo, commanding premium prices.

POLAND is set to change the terms under which foreigners can purchase land. Until now it has been insisting that only Poles will be allowed to own land for 18 years after EU accession – way over the seven years the commission is after. But a new position, expected to be agreed in Brussels today (Friday), will bring this down to 12 years, while EU farmers who are already leasing land, will be able to buy it even sooner.