The NFU has called for immediate financial support for upland farmers as the continuing restrictions on livestock movements and meat exports puts huge pressure on their incomes.
Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth on Sunday (23 September), NFU president Peter Kendal said that DEFRA “owes us one” for its role in the foot and mouth virus escaping from Pirbright.
“Because of DEFRA’s responsibility as regulator and major customer, it should take responsibility for helping those farmers out at this very difficult time.”
With store and breeding sales on hold, and with the 35% of lamb that would normally be exported at this time of year now looking for an outlet at home, the UK sheep market was facing meltdown.
The NFU therefore wants prompt payment of the single farm payment, early payment of Hill Farm Allowances, some kind of meat buy-up scheme and a rapid return to livestock movements on a regionalised basis.
“When farmers see £28bn be used to underwrite Northern Rock, the feeling is that people in government have not quite twigged what is going on in agriculture,” Mr Kendall said.
Junior DEFRA minister Jeff Rooker agreed it was “imperative” to get aid to hill farmers, who had few alternative sources of income. DEFRA was therefore looking at the possibility of HFA payments, he said
“Our intention is to lift F&M movement restrictions as soon as possible on a regionalised basis,” he added.
Lord Rooker added: “It is imperative in my view that we pay special attention to those who farm the hills. I want them and their communities to be maintained and I will do everything I can – we have a responsibility for that.”