8 October 1999

Call to end limit on beef special premium claims

By Simon Wragg

THE National Beef Association has asked MAFF to scrap the 90-head limit on beef special premium claims to boost beef incomes, although farming unions and many producers are resisting the move.

The NBAs Robert Forster says the removal of the individual farm ceiling would remove distortion in store prices for cattle on green or blue tickets and allow rearers and finishers a chance to achieve efficiencies in running larger numbers of male cattle.

NBA calculations suggest the scale-back would only amount to £5 a claim. This takes into account an extra 300,000 dairy bull calves being reared this year with the end of the calf processing aid scheme. It also accounts in part for a 4% clawback of suckler quota under Agenda 2000 and the inclusion of un-bred heifers (up to 20%) for an individual businesss claim.

The NFU canvassed members and found most feared a scale-back would not only cut BSP payments, but also affect extensification payments, says the unions Kevin Pearce. "Its been an overwhelming vote against removing the limit.

"There are so many uncertainties with an unknown number of CPAS calves to come… it remains under constant review until the time is right." The NFU also questions the NBAs figures suggesting a cut in the BSP of over £10 could not be ruled out.

Even if the headage limit was removed, many beef rearers and finishers would not meet the maximum stocking rate of two livestock units a hectare to qualify for the BSP.

And it is that pressure on stocking rates that has put some beef producers against the proposed changes. Stephen Whiteford who finishes 400 cattle annually at Bridge Farm, Addington, Bucks says it will only favour big beef units. "For the majority it wont help.

"The 800 acres of grassland here is enough for the 90 head each of green and blue claims, our suckler cows and ewes.

"Any changes would only disturb the system; something would have to go. It would be better to put more effort behind getting beef exports back." &#42