24 October 2001
Gill to Blair: ‘farm aid clock ticking’

By Tom Allen-Stevens

FARMERS leader Ben Gill has written to Tony Blair in a final bid to persuade the Prime Minister to pay 57 million of agrimonetary aid.

The move comes just one week before the 31 October deadline for the government to apply to Brussels for the money.

“Agrimoney aid is designed precisely to make up for the currency fluctuations which have beset British farmers,” said Mr Gill.

“We have an indisputable case.”

The National Farmers Union president said every other member state in the same position in previous years has applied for full agrimonetary aid.

Failure to apply would be seen as a dereliction of duty, he told Mr Blair.

“If the Government will not move on this issue, it will be a further damaging blow to farmers prospects of securing a better future.”

The NFU claims arable area payments in the Euro zone have risen by 15%, but the strong Pound has seen drop them by nearly 20% in the UK.

A farmer with 100ha of cereals has lost 8500, the union said.

Mr Gill pointed out that the continued strength of Sterling against the Euro has also reduced market returns for arable farmers.

But the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs Ministers has been to stress the many other claims upon Government funds.

Amid fears of a recession following last months terror attacks, a government spending review has tightened the treasury purse strings.

The aid, which would come out of a VAT repayment by Brusssels, has not yet been discounted, but is now thought to be a low priority.

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