30 April 2001
Growers await agrimoney decision

By Robert Harris

ARABLE growers are waiting to hear whether they will receive up to 40 million to compensate for the strength of Sterling, which has devalued cereal prices.

The National Farmers Union has been lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture to apply for the agrimoney package to help offset losses.

Union leaders are waiting to hear whether the application was lodged by MAFF officials in Brussels before a deadline on Monday (30 April).

Brussels would pay out 70% of the money, but the UK Treasury has been reluctant to authorise previous payments because 30% must come from UK coffers.

NFU commodity adviser Paul Ibbott said he believes the needs of the arable sector – overlooked in the foot-and-mouth crisis – have never been greater.

“The case is even more compelling then when we secured the autumn payment,” he told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“The Pound has not got any weaker, and prices for the current trading year are probably still at an all-time low.

“Forward markets may look rosier, but people will have a lot less to sell.”

Support payments for 2002, due to be set in June, could be diluted by farmers who are expected to apply for arable area payments on more land than usual.

Foot-and-mouth may see more set-aside replace forage on eligible land. Rain could result in fewer non-eligible crops like vining peas and potatoes planted.

That would cause an overshoot in the UK base area set by Brussels which determines the maximum amount of money available as arable area aid.

Subsidies will be further cut next year as production payments are reduced by another 3% and the money redirected to rural development under modulation.

Mr Ibbott said: “Producers may well use the arable area aid scheme as a backstop. Overall, the outlook for the arable sector is pretty awful.”