BSE cost starving other projects of investment

11 July 1997

BSE cost starving other projects of investment

BSE cost starving other projects of investment

UNTIL BSE is beaten the crippling cost of fighting the disease will limit funding for other agricultural projects.

That was the blunt response Welsh secretary, Ron Davies, gave to a shopping list of spending proposals from the staff and governors of a Welsh agricultural college.

Mr Davies accepted the case for investment in sheep improvement, encouraging the use of sheep AI, adding value to the products of farm woodlands, and providing agri-environment training, but would not promise extra cash.

"The government is committed to fostering profitable farming and sound countryside management," Mr Davies insisted during his visit to Llysfasi College, Ruthin, Denbighshire. "We are also keen to support agricultural education and colleges that do a good job."

But the beef crisis was swallowing up huge amounts of public money, which inevitably made life harder for people bidding for cash for other worthwhile projects.

College principal Fred Cunning-ham urged the minister to spend on the science needed to build on sheep improvement work already carried out by farmers, including the 15 members of the self-help Welsh Mountain group breeding scheme based at the college.

"We need to develop better ways of identifying sheep, perhaps electronically, improved recording systems, and help with the high cost of training sheep AI technicians so that genetically superior rams can be used on many more ewes," Mr Cunningham said.

He also pressed Mr Davies to back acceptance of the EUs early retirement scheme for farmers, and to initiate financial initiatives for new entrants who held green certificates showing they had been trained in food production and other aspects of land management.

The system was already working in many other EU countries and could reduce the average age of farmers. The move, coupled with expansion of agri-environment schemes, would provide many rural jobs, and made much more economic and environmental sense than set-aside payments.

So, too, Mr Cunningham argued, did giving extra aid to farmers who wanted to manage woodlands better and add value to timber. &#42

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