EU ministers meet on BSE curbs
By FWi staff
EUROPEAN agriculture ministers are meeting in Brussels to decide drastic new measures to curb the spread of BSE.
The ministers will discuss plans to ban livestock feed containing meat and bonemeal – a ban already imposed by Britain in an effort to control BSE.
The European Commission has also proposed to keep beef animals older than 30 months out of the food chain unless they are tested for mad cow disease.
To offset the cost of the measures on farmers, Brussels has pledged flexible handling of the intervention system to address the drop in beef prices.
It proposes to raise the advances paid for the beef premia from the current 60% to 80%, to ease the financial pressure on beef producers.
UK agriculture minister Nick Brown has pledged his support for the commissions proposals but some other countries believe they are too costly.
Ben Gill, president of Britains National Farmers Union is travelling to Brussels to lobby other member states to agree to the plans.
The NFU has believes that consumers will only have total confidence in the safeguards if the measures are implemented fully on a common basis.
Mr Gill said: “It is vital that all member states demonstrate their commitment to tackling this issue jointly.”
Confidence among Britains farmers is at rock bottom and urgent measures are required to alleviate the distress and fear for the future, continued Mr Gill.
“A shortage of protein for animal feed is likely in the year ahead,” he added.
“The Council must address this issue and find a mechanism to encourage domestic production of protein crops.”
If agreement is not forthcoming, it is feared that the issue of BSE could overshadow a summit of European leaders in Nice later this week.