Beckett silent on arable aid

1 October 2001

Beckett silent on arable aid

By Isabel Davies in Brighton

RURAL Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett has refused to say whether she will help arable farmers hit by the worst harvest for years.

Many cereal growers will be forced out of business this winter without government help, the National Farmers Union has warned.

But Mrs Beckett told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference on Sunday (30 September) that the government had already done a lot to help.

“We are conscious of the case, and conscious of the problems facing the industry,” she told listeners in Brighton.

Mrs Beckett also offered a rebuke to farmers who, she said, were complaining that the government was doing too little to help.

“It is not helping you any more than it is helping me to help you.”

But many cereal farmers will struggle unless the government acts, NFU president Ben Gill said.

The arable sector had experienced a dreadful 12 months, he told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

An NFU report called Crisis in the Cereals Sector claims that arable farmers are being ground down by forces beyond their control.

“Many farmers will be forced out of the industry this winter, or will not be able to meet the cost of next years spring sowing.”

The report says that incomes last year dropped by 61%. The wheat harvest this year is believed to be down by a massive 25-30%.

NFU leaders said the government has just 30 days to help the cereals sector by applying for 57 million of in agrimoney compensation.

Mr Gill wants the money to help offset the impact of the strong Pound which has driven down the value of subsidies set in Euros.

“While the weather is something we have to live with, the government can do something about the impact of Sterling,” he said.

“Compensation is made available by Brussels to help those disadvantaged because they remain outside the Euro zone.”

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