25 July 1997
No delay for cuts in cull payments

NATIONAL Farmers Union leader Sir David Naish says he is extremely disappointed that his appeal to farm minister Jack Cunningham to delay the payment changes to the over-30-month scheme (OTMS) for a month was instantly rejected.

The government has come under fire from opposition MPs and the NFU over its plans to cut cull cow compensation payments and introduce a weight ceiling for the OTMS.

The scheme – whereby cattle over 30-months are culled and removed from the human food chain – was introduced by the previous government because consumer didnt want to eat older cows in light of the BSE crisis.

Farmers and their union leaders have put pressure on the government to reverse the planned changes, due to come into effect on August 4.

During question time in Parliament, opposition MPs pointed out that farmers stood to lose up to £150 a beast if the 560kg liveweight payment ceiling was introduced. Up to 20 MPs have signed a motion calling on the government to keep the slaughter payments at their current rate of 0.9ecu/kg.

The government claims that any delay to cutting back the scheme would undermine the objective of the price changes which was to reduce the governments expenditure on the scheme. Prime Minister Tony Blair said the cuts were necessary in a bid to stem the escalating costs of the BSE crisis, which were now estimated at £4 billion.