18 January 2000
Blair to announce aid at Union AGM?
By Donald MacPhail
RUMOURS are spreading that Prime Minister Tony Blair could appear at the National Farmers Union annual general meeting next month to announce an aid scheme for farmers.
Unconfirmed reports say this could be along the lines of the farming unions campaign to secure 575 million for UK producers to offset the strong Pound and the effects of the BSE ban.
Farming leaders want this to include 450m agrimoney compensation available under EU rules where subsidies and support prices are devalued when converted from the Euro to strong national currencies.
The NFU AGM will be held on 1 and 2 February in London.
Meanwhile, the livestock industry will have to wait until at least the same date to learn the governments response to radical proposals to cut red tape in the trade.
Having studied the proposals from three working groups on bureaucracy and procedures, farming minister Nick Brown will on Wednesday (19 January) again meet the chairmen.
But a MAFF spokeswoman confirmed there would be no reaction until February.
A possible date for the government response is when Mr Brown attends the NFU AGM.
The working groups were formed to tackle widespread complaints by farmers that they are becoming submerged under the weight of unnecessary bureaucracy.
Chairman of NFU Corporate Robin Pooley headed the team reviewing meat hygiene and inspection procedures, while Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Don Curry looked at Integrated Administrative Control System (IACS) payments and other payment schemes.
The third group, which reviewed the application of the UK intervention, was being chaired by Norman Coward, former agriculture director of Midland Bank.
Mr Pooleys group called for a radical overhaul the meat inspection system; Mr Curry concluded farmers could make significant savings if they invested in information technology; and Mr Coward stressed the need for a level intervention playing field.
Mr Pooley said: “Im reasonably confident that, while he may not accept every recommendation from the group I chaired – they never do, he will accept the underlying logic.”
Mr Pooley said he believed there would be all party support for the report.