By Emma Penny

BEEF producers should question the effect of Agenda 2000 on their businesses, and consider all options to help deal with proposals, says SAC economist Stuart Ashworth.

Speaking at last weekends Beef 99 event at Rhynie, Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Mr Ashworth advised rehearsing arguments and options, but admitted that several key issues were still unknown.

“Think about how current proposals will affect your business, and plan strategies to cope with them. But dont panic, and dont make rash decisions – there are other facts we dont know yet.

“For instance, we know suckler cow quota will fall, but we dont know by how much. We know how big the national envelope is, but we dont know how the government will share it out.

“We dont know how extensification will work – will the government go for the simple system of 1.4 livestock units, or a two-tier system? We also have a good idea of what stock will count towards extensification, but how often will they count it?”

These unknown factors make planning difficult. “For example, one dilemma is whether to claim suckler cow premium for heifers. If you claim it on heifers, there is a knock-on effect on steer numbers which must be considered.

“Producers are left in a planning quandary. My advice is not to panic. Think about your options in the light of current, but incomplete, information, and try to produce a series of alternatives which you can be ready to pursue when the time comes.”

Mr Ashworth said this approach at least helped identify key questions for the business.