27 September 1996

Challenge for MAFFon suckler cash decision

By Tim Relf

STAFFORDSHIRE farmer Peter Gray is taking MAFF to court over its decision to deny him suckler cow premium payments.

Under EU rules, joint dairy and beef units are ineligible for the premium, unless the dairy has a milk quota of less than 120,000kg or is making direct sales.

Farm manager Mr Gray has fallen foul of the rules because, for IACS purposes, MAFF has lumped together Cote Farm, Stoke-on-Trent, with a dairy unit over 160km (100 miles) away in Gloucestershire which is under similar ownership.

As a result, the entire premium claim – worth over £25,000 on the 260-strong herd – could be lost.

"Beef from suckler cows is simply not profitable without subsidy and I cannot understand why farmers who are also running dairy units should be precluded from claiming it," says Mr Gray.

Together with Bristol-based solicitors Burges Salmon, his High Court challenge will focus on the rule excluding dairy farms from claiming the premium, rather than on the decision to treat the two businesses as one unit.

Meanwhile the potential for expanding other enterprises at Cote Farm is limited. The land currently grazed by the cattle is unsuitable for arable crops, says Mr Gray. And other livestock ventures may require quota.

and, therefore, additional capital.

Peter Gray says sucklers make no financial sense without subsidy.