Members reject NFU OTMS proposal
By Boyd Champness
THE National Farmers Unions proposal to grudgingly accept price cuts to the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS), in return for the lifting of the Governments unpopular 560kg ceiling payment, has been rejected by NFU members.
Two weeks ago, the NFU came up with an alternative plan which would have seen payments under the OTMS cut by 6.6p/kg across the board in return for the scrapping of the weight ceiling.
The OTMS was introduced by the Government to compensate owners of cattle over 30 months old which are culled to ally consumer fears about the spread of BSE.
The NFU has been holding consultation meetings with leaders from the various farming regions over the past two weeks to seek their views on the proposal.
But while farmers were united in their condemnation of the weight ceiling, the majority of regions were not prepared to cop a 6.6p/kg cut in payments to see it lifted. Its believed that only the south-west supported the idea.
NFU president Sir David Naish said that if farm minister Jack Cunningham persisted with the weight limit, then a relatively small number of suckler producers would be carrying a hugely disproportionate share of the £29m savings sought by the Government. Suckler producers are presently losing about £140, or 40%, on a beast weighing 800kg going through the scheme.
Sir David said farmers had undergone yet another green pound revaluation since the NFU first mooted its proposal, making the entire scheme even more unjust.
Last weeks green pound revaluation cut the OTMS payment rate for cows from 57.7p/kg liveweight to 55.7p/kg. If members had supported the NFU plan then a further 6.6p/kg, or 12%, would have been wiped from the payments.
The NFU claims that, from September, cull cow sellers will receive around 65% of the animals value, compared to two years ago – even if those cattle are below the Governments despised weight ceiling.
“Despite the strength of the Sterling, this is only 80% of the market price of such animals in Germany, and even less of that in France,” the NFU press statement said.
Sir David said he would ask the minister to meet with him again so he could explain the gravity of the situation created by the “discriminatory” action taken by the Government.
“I shall be asking him to remove the weight limit, but not impose any further price cuts. I have never been faced with such a degree of disbelief and disgust from farmers, who cannot accept that the Government can treat them in this high-handed and unjustified way,” he said.