7 June 1996

No joy in deal for Euro-beef compensation

FARM ministers failed to agreed a compensation package for the communitys beef farmers this week despite EU farm commissioner Franz Fischlers insistence that a deal had to be struck urgently.

The commission had proposed funding worth 650m ecus (£556m), with 534m ecus (£457m) to top up the 1995 both the suckler cow and beef special premiums. The remaining money would be split between the 15 member states, with national decisions on how it should be used.

That would give UK farmers an increase of £21.41 a head on their 1995 BSPS, bringing the total to £114.41, while suckler cow premium would be raised to £149.70, an increase of £25.70 an animal.

The proposals would give the UK an additional £13.9m to spend as it wants and farm minister Douglas Hogg said this week that he still had an open mind on how that money should be allocated.

At the farm council meeting in Luxembourg no agreement was reached and the proposals will be discussed again at the next meeting on June 24/25. Many felt that the level of funding was insufficient and did not reflect the devastation their beef industries had suffered.

No more money

But EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, said the money had to come out of this years budget and there was unlikely to be any more available. It also had to be paid by Oct 15 so there was an urgent need to settle the details.

The UKs farming unions are urging Mr Hogg to spends his discretionary money on helping prime beef producers who have been hit by the collapse in market prices and have not yet received any compensation.

Ben Gill, NFU vice-president, said: "Farmers who have sold prime animals since the crisis began on Mar 20 could provide MAFF with information on ear tag numbers along with their market receipts to prove they had suffered financial loss." Such payments would also help compensate the loss on heifersThe commission has also agreed to allow member states to provide additional state funding for their beef producers. Mr Hogg said he had not yet decided whether or not the UK would do so.

Shelley Wright

&#8226 Cattle farmers should receive a letter from MAFF early next week explaining how the promised £300 interim payment, for cattle stuck on farms awaiting slaughter under the 30-month disposal scheme, will be paid.