2 May 2001
NFU may go to court over welfare cut

By FWi staff

ANGRY farmers leaders may go to court to challenge a Ministry of Agriculture decision to cut foot-and-mouth welfare disposal scheme payments.

The National Farmers Union is consulting solicitors, marking a fundamental shift in the unions relationship with MAFF since the crisis began.

While the NFU has disagreed with some elements of Government handling, both parties have worked closely together to overcome the epidemic.

But now NFU president Ben Gill has accused Agriculture Minister Nick Browns of “breaking his word” with the announcement of the cut last week.

Mr Gill said when the level of payments was originally set in March, the union was assured that they were for an eight-week period.

“The Government has seen fit to break that commitment, in spite of appeals by the NFU and despite a backlog of 700,000 animals, mainly due to its own administrative difficulties.”

“This scheme is currently the only option for many producers caught up in the current foot-and-mouth logjam,” insisted Mr Gill.

“Many producers stand to lose thousands of pounds because of the surprise cut in rates from 30 April and we are determined to ensure they get a fair deal.”

Mr Gill warned that farmers who have waited weeks to get their animals into the scheme will receive much less than before and could be financially crippled.

Meanwhile the National Pig Association website www.npa-uk.net reports that one pig producer has already taken counsels advice on seeking Judicial Review as an individual.

Mr Brown said it was imperative that the rates for the scheme were not more financially attractive than those offered by abattoirs.

The rate for cull and draft ewes, new-season lambs, clean cattle and pigs will be revised to about 70% of current market prices.

For hoggets and cull sows, a higher rate of 80% will be available.

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