15 September 2000

Cattle premium set to change?

LIVESTOCK farmers could lose out on £74m over the next two years because of Brussels plans to disqualify over 30-month cattle from the new slaughter premium.

The commission says UK farmers are being over-compensated because although support prices were cut under Agenda 2000, OTMS money was left unchanged and other direct payments were increased.

The beef management committee meeting in Brussels today (Friday) will consider changing the regulations to exclude cull cows from slaughter premium.

With cull cows valued at £17/head this year and £33/head next year, the NFU estimates this would cost the industry more than £70m, hitting suckler beef and dairy producers especially hard.

NFU president Ben Gill has written to EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler expressing his "surprise and bewilderment" at the move, and requesting his immediate intervention.

The NFU says the price of cull cows has been increasing substantially in mainland Europe, despite Agenda 2000, with Belgium farmers enjoying a 36% price rise since last year, and the Germans 10%.

Livestock adviser Kevin Pearce said that while the OTMS payment was not cut in k terms under Agenda 2000, the strength of sterling has brought its real value down 7% since the start of the year.

This made a mockery of suggestions that UK farmers were being over-compensated, said NFU livestock vice-chairman Ian Frood. He said the operation of the weight limit until this summer had also undermined the value of the OTMS. &#42