26 April 1996

Its still unclear how far herd cull policy will go

By FW News Reporters

UNCERTAINTY remains over the extent of any compulsory slaughter scheme to speed up the eradication of BSE as MAFF officials finalised possible options this week.

Confusion also surrounds the final details of the compensation scheme for cattle over 30 months excluded from the food chain, which is due to begin next week.

Farming union leaders concerns over both issues were raised at a Downing Street meeting with farm minister, Douglas Hogg, on Wednesday.

The meeting followed Mr Hoggs lengthy talks with EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, in Brussels on Monday. But according to a MAFF official firm details of a cull policy were not discussed with Mr Fischler.

"Mr Hogg talked about the concept of selective slaughter rather than any detail because the view from the EU in the main has been directed towards a whole herd slaughter policy and they have not thought of alternatives," said the official.

In what was described as a constructive meeting, Mr Fischler expressed interest in the idea of tightly targeted selective culling, involving about 42,000 cows. But he wanted to see full details at next weeks EU farm council meeting.

Technically the selective slaughter proposals must be put to the farm ministers by the EU commission, and MAFF hoped to submit details of its selective cull to EC officials by the end of this week.

Mr Hogg told union leaders that talks had also taken place over possible exemptions to the 30-month scheme for later-maturing, grass-fed beef herds.

NFU deputy-president, Ben Gill, said producers needed to know urgently precisely how MAFF would deal with the 30-month scheme. Bob Parry, Farmers Union of Wales leader said he was disappointed over the lack of progress on incineration plans.

MAFF officials were also unable to clear up confusion over whether compensation would be restricted to a liveweight basis or would also offer a deadweight option.

The basic payment will be 85.66p/kg liveweight, with no ceiling on weight. For an initial six months the UK government will pay a top-up for steers and heifers over 30 months.

This rate will be at least 25p/kg for the first four weeks of the scheme. &#42