21 January 2000

Leak adds fuel to BSE tax disquiet

EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler has fuelled fears that the government doesnt want to help the ailing pig sector after a letter from the commissioner to NFU president Ben Gill was leaked to the press.

In the letter, Mr Fischler says the UK authorities had not contacted commission staff to discuss the issue since the early autumn. Yet, he writes: "My staff are always available to discuss proposals to grant state aid with member states and to assist in designing measures which meet the Community rules."

This has reinforced the view held by some leading industry figures that the main barriers to the receipt of state aid as compensation for the so-called "BSE-tax" lies in Westminster, not Brussels.

Before Christmas, farm minister Nick Brown told FW that state aid for the industry would not be allowed under EU law. But National Pig Association chief executive Mike Sheldon insists there is still constructive and regular dialogue between the NPA and MAFF on the issue. &#42