3 May 1996

Farming leaders beg to differ with Hogg on BSE ban

By Shelley Wright

FARM minister, Douglas Hogg, and farming leaders differed this week over the outcome of EU beef crisis talks.

Mr Hogg insisted steps towards a progressive lifting of the beef and beef products export ban had been "successfully negotiated" at the meeting of EU farm ministers in Luxembourg.

But NFU president, Sir David Naish, hit out at what he called the lack of any firm progress. "I am bitterly disappointed that the other EU member states continue to oppose Britains plans, on the grounds that they do not go far enough, but at the same time fail to come up with practical alternatives to the problems," he said.

The Country Landowners Association expressed "grave concern over the lack of progress". And Scottish NFU president, Sandy Mole, said a solution seemed as far away as ever.

Mr Hogg had proposed culling, or placing movement restrictions on, 42,000 cattle thought to be at most risk of contracting BSE. These animals were identified as cohorts of cattle which had contracted BSE between September 1990 and the end of 1993. The government had designated up to £90m to compensate farmers at an average of £2000 a cow.

The plan was supported by EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler and although the farm ministers did not endorse it, they agreed it was a step in the right direction.

Mr Hogg told MPs on Wednesday that he had agreed to investigate whether additional measures targeted on herds where there had been many cases of BSE would be justified. But he stressed that the original plan, restricted to 42,000 cattle, would form the main component of any final policy.

Insistence on link

And he again insisted that any selective cull must be linked to a removal of the export ban. The government was still convinced that the ban was unjustified and was proceeding with legal action.

The commission should ask the Standing Veterinary Committee to reconsider the ban on gelatine, tallow and semen next week.

MAFF is to continue talks on allowing animals over 30 months from grass-fed herds back into the UK food chain.

But the NFU said it was just not good enough for EU ministers to regard the UKs proposal as a first step towards removal of the export ban. The ban was unjustified and the governments proposals already went beyond the advice of independent scientific experts.