Dairy challenge torpedoed

ENGLISH DAIRY farmers have lost a legal challenge to force DEFRA to pay the dairy premium as an addition to the single farm payment.

Contributors saw their case torpedoed by new legislation rushed through the Council of Ministers in Brussels by EU farm ministers.

“Mrs Beckett has changed the law,” claimed farm consultant Charles Holt, who has co-ordinated the challenge through solicitor William Neville of Burges Salmon.

“It was a blatant change of the rules of the game after the game had begun, and that was it: our case was mortally holed below the waterline.”

He had been leading a group of dairy farmers who believed that DEFRA could not include the dairy premium in the SFP – a decision that meant it would be redistributed among all English farmers under the regional area payment.

The premium was intended to compensate dairy farmers for intervention price cuts, they argued, and reallocation would disadvantage English milk producers compared to their supported competitors.

A barrister in EU law had assured the challengers that their case was “cast-iron and copper-bottomed” after looking at the single farm payment regulations.

But two weeks after DEFRA was notified of the case by letter, Council regulation 118/2005 was adopted on June 26, allowing member states to include premiums in the SFP.

Andrew Slade, DEFRA‘s head of livestock products, waited nearly ten weeks before replying to the letter, saying the new legislation merely clarified existing CAP reform rules.

See more