By Philip Clarke
BEEF market managers meet in Brussels today (Friday) to thrash out the final details of the Agenda 2000 reforms and how they will be implemented in member states.
But there is mounting concern that what they agree will lead to administrative chaos and could disadvantage UK producers.
In particular, the latest texts call for a three month retention period for beef producers wanting to claim the new slaughter premium, which will be worth up to80 (£53) a head by 2002.
The rationale is that the commission wants to ensure the subsidy only goes to genuine farmers and not traders who happen to buy the cattle shortly before they are killed.
But the NFU argues that three months is far too long; even the two months required for beef special premium is pushing it, says livestock committee adviser, Kevin Pearce.
“British farmers want to be able to sell their animals when they are ready and the market wants them, without the restrictions of a three month retention period
“When it launched Agenda 2000, the commission said it wanted to simplify the system and prepare producers for world markets. This does neither. If anything, it makes it worse.”
The proposal fails to recognise the reality of the British system, in which cattle move from one holding to another far more frequently than on the Continent.
“A lot of finishers only hold the animals on farm for a few weeks. This could upset the whole structure of our industry,” says Mr Pearce, who also fears the commission may raise the beef special premium retention period to three months as well.
Time is running out, with the beef management committee keen to adopt the new regulations before heading off for the August holiday.
As such, NFU president, Ben Gill, has written to EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, urging his intervention.