21 January 2000

MAFFs lawyers close loophole in beef scheme disaster

MAFFS new Beef Slaughter Premium Scheme was prevented from turning into a "complete shambles" this week after MAFF lawyers re-examined the way it should be applied in this country.

After more than a week of deliberation, they ruled that cattle returning to a farm unsold from the market or live from the abattoir would not have to start another two-month retention period to be eligible for payment under the scheme.

The move, universally welcomed by the industry, allayed fears that MAFFs intransigence over the need to keep cattle on the farm for two months before slaughter was going to undermine the scheme.

The problem came to light when Staffs farmer John Parrot returned from Penkridge market two weeks ago with an unsold bull. On checking with MAFF, he was told he would not be allowed to claim the slaughter premium, worth £16.92, unless he kept the animal on his premises for another 60 days.

"It would simply not be economical to do that with a bull that has come to the end of its productive use," said Mr Parrot.

Lower prices

A number of other farmers subsequently raised the issue with the NFU. It realised this interpretation of the scheme, introduced on Jan 1, 2000, to compensate for lower beef intervention prices, could also affect animals returning from abattoirs and even travelling between sites owned by the same farmer.

The union told MAFF of the problem two weeks ago today and it took until Tuesday of this week for the lawyers to make their decision.

NFU livestock adviser Kevin Pearce said: "The original interpretation would have turned the scheme into a complete shambles. This shows that when you put forward a strong enough argument, MAFF can be persuaded to change its mind." &#42