18 June 1999

Industry welcomes FSA charge U-turn

By Shelley Wright

THE governments U-turn on how the new Food Standards Agency should be funded has been welcomed by farming leaders.

Instead of imposing a £90 a year levy on every food outlet in the country, farm minister, Nick Brown, announced that the government had now decided that it should bear the cost.

Introducing the parliamentary Bill needed to establish the agency, Mr Brown said: "My decision to scrap the levy shows that we have listened to peoples concerns and have acted in their interests. This move will help small businesses by easing a potential burden."

Describing the Bill as a "landmark in the history of food safety", health secretary, Frank Dobson, said the agency would act as a safety watchdog as well as providing clear, accurate information so that people could make informed decisions about the food they eat.

NFU president, Ben Gill, said the decision to drop the levy on food retailers was a positive move. "We have always been firmly opposed to a flat rate levy on retail and catering outlets because we believe food safety is a public health issue and should, therefore, be funded centrally," he said.

The union had always supported the idea of a Food Standards Agency, Mr Gill added. It would, he said, provide further openness about food safety issues and help boost consumer confidence in British produce.

Jim Walker, Scottish NFU president, said the move to public funding was a victory for common sense. "Public funding is the only way the public can have confidence in the impartiality of the agency. What we want now is for the standards set by the agency to be enforced across Europe.

"Imports must be made to measure up to the same standards and conditions applied to home produced food," he said.

The Bill will get its second reading on June 22. &#42

Co-operate to lift milk price

MILK producers do not have to accept low prices for their product.

If they would work together they could become stronger sellers, says Derek Mead, a Somerset milk producer and vice-chairman of the Dairy Crest Shareholders Association.

"Businessmen have to make best use of their assets, which in our case is our milk and our Dairy Crest shares. It is not a question of getting together to hold buyers to ransom, it is more a question of not giving our milk away.

"If none of the supermarkets could buy cheap milk they would not mind paying a bit more. It is ridiculous that in a quotad system we are not getting a decent price."

He wants more dairy farmers to join the Dairy Crest Shareholders Association to give it more influence, and he wants everyone, including Milk Marque and the various milk groups, to work together more.

With that in mind he has organised a crisis meeting at his Ebdon Court Farm, Wick St Lawrence, near Weston-super-Mare, at 7pm on Wed, June 23. &#42

Praying that sunny weather will continue is James Langston. Although he has a good crop of strawberries, not many are yet ripe on the pick-your-own unit at Hoarston Farm, Charingworth, Chipping Campden, Glos.