7 March 2001
Farmers hope for Budget respite

By FWi staff

FARMERS are hoping the Chancellor of the Exchequer heeds their pleas for a Budget sensitive to the needs of Britains beleaguered agricultural industry.

Gordon Brown is expected to deliver big tax cuts on Wednesday (7 March) when he delivers what is possibly his last Budget before the General Election.

However, National Farmers Union president Ben Gill has called on Mr Brown to be sensitive to farmers who are facing the catastrophe of foot-and-mouth disease.

Mr Gill described farmers as scared, frustrated and anxious, saying anything in the Budget which added to their burden could tip “them over the edge.”

The climate change levy and planned pesticides tax threatened to increase farmers costs while not achieving their environmental objectives, said Mr Gill.

High fuel taxes and even a tax on quarried stone used to build farm tracks also have the potential to add to farmers bills, said Mr Gill.

Union analysts had been in lengthy negotiations with Government officials to provide alternative voluntary measures to the pesticides tax, he added.

Mr Gill said the NFU proposals were credible and had a far greater potential to deliver environmental benefits than bureaucratic, costly and unfocused taxes.

Mr Gill said he was still trying to work out how driving pig and poultry farmers out of business with the climate change levy would stop global warming.

“Other countries will soon step in to fill the gap and will use just as much fuel as us. But then they will use more fuel to send their produce to us,” he said.

“Anything other than a complete exemption for agriculture and horticulture, as elsewhere in the EU, would be sheer madness.”

Mr Gill has also called for capital allowances for plant and machinery to counteract the fall in investment in agriculture.

He also wants a scheme to enable farmers to write off new purchases of milk quota over seven years for tax purposes.