30 August 1996

Relax feed rules in beef scheme, urge leaders

By Shelley Wright

THE governments BSE advisory committee will be asked to relax strict feed rules imposed under the mature beef assurance scheme after protests from industry leaders.

And junior farm minister Angela Browning said farmers should apply to join MAFFs scheme even if they dont meet the current regulations concerning bought-in feed.

At a meeting with industry leaders Mrs Browning heard concerns that few producers would be able to comply with the rule that any concentrates fed to the herd in the past four years had to come from ruminant-only feed mills.

The schemes criteria had been devised on direct advice from the BSE advisory committee, SEAC, and Mrs Browning said that any changes could be made only if SEAC agreed. She said she would write to the committee in advance of its next meeting on Sep 9 to see if there could be some relaxation on the feed rule.

But in the meantime, although she could not promise anything, Mrs Browning said that if the feed rule was the only one that producers failed to meet then they should still apply.

And the feed companies trade body, UKASTA, welcomed the ministers response. Director general, Jim Reed, said he was hopeful that progress could now be made.

Following the meeting Mr Reed said: "Mrs Browning made a lot of sympathetic noises and said that she now had a better understanding of what the problems were.

"The most outrageous restriction at the moment is that anyone complying with the feed rules now, must also in future take feed exclusively from ruminant-only mills. That is absolutely crazy after everything that feed companies have done to get rid of meat and bonemeal."

The use of MBM in all livestock diets became illegal in April, since when all mills that previously used it have had to be thoroughly cleaned.

"I would be shocked and horrified if, after all that, MAFF continued to say that feed for the mature beef producers could come from ruminant-only mills," Mr Reed said.

UKASTA also wants farmers who bought feed from mills that stopped using MBM more than seven years ago to qualify for the scheme.

"Those mills, even if they were mixing ruminant and non-ruminant diets should be regarded as acceptable for the scheme," Mr Reed insisted.