17 May 1996

NFU asks government to turn promise into action

By Tony McDougal

NFU leader, Sir David Naish, called for immediate action to turn the promised government aid to beef producers into reality at a packed lobby of 500 farmers in Westminster on Wednesday.

While aid packages have been set up for both dairy and producers rearing cattle over 30 months, beef farmers finishing younger cattle are facing mounting financial difficulties.

Sir David called for direct top-up payments on both steers and heifers sold since the BSE crisis began on Mar 20.

Other priorities included an increase in this years suckler cow and beef special premiums, ending the 90-head beef premium limit and providing a higher earlier payment.

Sir David argued that there should also be a higher GB regional ceiling for the BSPS next year and a payment of the national top-up to the suckler cow premium.

Commenting on the 30-month cattle disposal scheme, he called for better leadership from government and proper provision for casualty animals.

And he was deeply critical of the decision by supermarkets not to accept cattle from abattoirs involved in the 30-month disposal scheme. "I am furious. It is an irresponsible statement to suggest that we are not a responsible industry."

With only 21 abattoirs participating in the 30-month scheme, deputy NFU president, Ben Gill, said there were large tracts of land from East Anglia through the east midlands which had no participating slaughterhouses and were, therefore, compromising welfare for casualty stock.

There was criticism, too, of abattoirs operating a handling charge for incoming cattle.

Sir David also said it was vital government extended the guarantee of the 25p top-up for all steers and heifers aged over 27 months on Mar 20.

Responding to fears from dairy farmer James Spencer-Ashworth, Norfolk, that he will lose half his herd if the 42,000 compulsory slaughter scheme proposed by MAFF is put into practice, Sir David said he would fight any unnecessary slaughter scheme which did not bring down BSE cases.

Other issues which needed tackling included getting the new cattle identification system off the ground on June 1 and securing the lifting of the "unjustified and illogical world ban".

Si David also welcomed UKASTAs decision to bring in an all-feed declaration policy. &#42