17 April 2000
MAFF workers discuss closure plans

By FWi staff

MINISTRY of Agriculture employees are to hold an emergency meeting in response to government plans which would close nine regional MAFF offices.

The employees are opposed to proposals which would shut the offices and centralise the processing of annual subsidy applications from farmers.

The plan, unveiled earlier this year, would see nine MAFF offices and two Intervention Board offices relocated to three or five regional call centres.

The proposals would reduce the number of employees from 3350 to 1750 and require farmers to apply for farm subsidies by using the internet.

Dave Ratchford of the Public and Commercial Services union claimed that the new system, which he described as unworkable, would cost 100 million.

“The system proposed cannot possibly deliver the results MAFF are banking on. We now need a colossal injection of common sense and reality into the scene”.

The Public and Commercial Services union is the fifth largest trade union in Britain, representing over a quarter of a million people.

It believes the MAFF plan offers little respite to Britains farmers, especially small producers suffering the worst agricultural crisis in living memory.

Furthermore, it claims that farmers who are not on-line will be forced to pay a third-party agent a special fee to submit their subsidy forms on their behalf.

Shadow agriculture ministers Tim Yeo and Colin Breed are expected to attend the unions meeting, which will be held in London on Tuesday (18 April).

Andy Harris, another national officer for the Public and Commercial Services union, said the MAFF plan did not recognise the situation many farmers are in.

“Farm incomes have halved and halved again in recent years,” he said. “Their position is desperate and cannot be overstated.”

The National Farmers Union has broadly welcomed the MAFF proposals, saying that the ministry should be streamlined to avoid red tape for farmers.