2 November 2001

GOVERNMENTDITHERINGWHILEARABLESECTORSORELYNEEDSEUCASH

XXXXXXXX XXXXX XX

XXXXXXXX XXXX XXXXX

When is the common agricultural policy not common? When it comes to agrimonetary aid – the system designed to protect farming incomes from adverse currency movements. EU countries locked into the k during the past three years have been protected fully from that effect. Of the four currencies outside the k-zone, only the £ has strengthened enough to trigger support.

But, far from the promised level playing field, little aid has been forthcoming. Why? Whitehall has to supply 80% of the money compared with 20% from Brussels. That makes the British government even less likely to apply for agrimonetary compensation than it otherwise would be.

True, this sorry state of affairs was brought about by the infamous Fontainebleau agreement negotiated by the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Its also true that British farmers have enjoyed some agrimoney compensation.

But not as much as they had a right to expect. During the past five years, EU area payments have risen by 15% compared with a 20% drop in the UK, according to NFU statistics. The brutal truth is that a 100ha (250-acre) cereal grower has lost £8500.

As FARMERS WEEKLY went to press the government was still dithering over whether to apply for £57m of agrimonetary compensation for arable farmers. Fewer than 12 hours before the application deadline expired, the government had still to announce its intentions. A positive decision would put an average of £700 in the pockets of every arable grower. Another £40m is at stake over the next two years. It is money they need, deserve and are entitled to.

After one of the wettest autumns on record last year and what proved to be for many an indifferent harvest, withholding such compensation would come as a bitter blow.

All the more bitter because we would have missed the last opportunity to apply for this form of compensation following the introduction of the k next year. Lets hope the government will see sense even at the 59th minute of the 11th hour.