Change OTMSrules, says TFA

3 September 1999

Change OTMSrules, says TFA

By Isabel Davies

THE Tenant Farmers Association is urging government to change the rules of the Over-30-Month Scheme to allow prime cattle back into the food chain. Money saved could then be used to reopen the calf processing scheme.

The organisation claims that the government could save more than £21m a year if prime animals aged over 30-months were no longer put through the OTMS. This cash could then provide payments of about £20/head for a calf processing scheme, the TFA says.

Reg Haydon, TFA chairman, said: "Not only are all clean cattle born since 1 Aug 1996 now fully traceable through the passport system, but there has never been any scientific justification for the arbitrary slaughter of clean cattle at 30 months."

He said the proposal would remove the anomaly whereby an animal of 29 months and 30 days was fit for human consumption but one of 30 months and one day was not.

The TFA ultimately wanted to see a resumption of live calf exports. But, in the meantime, government should take action to ease the pressures on the livestock industry, Mr Haydon said.

The organisation hopes to meet farm minister Nick Brown in the next fortnight to discuss the proposal.

Robert Forster chief executive of the National Beef Association said he was in favour of allowing older beef cattle going back into the food chain.

But he did not want to see money diverted to the dairy sector by spending it on a calf processing scheme.

He added that retailers would be apprehensive about accepting meat from animals over 30 months.

According to Duncan Sinclair, senior economist with the Meat and Livestock Commission, the industry should proceed with caution because any changes to the 30-month rule could damage consumer confidence.

"It would be a bad thing to move the 30-month line and then find that it had to be moved back," he said.

He believed that government would not change the 30-month rule until SEAC, the BSE advisory committee, was satisfied that the scientific evidence justified such a move.

SEAC is expected to discuss the future of the OTMS when it meets again in September. Mr Brown will then act on its advice.

Meanwhile, following an emergency meeting last week involving the NFU, other industry and animal welfare organisations, plans are being developed to establish a scheme that would allow unsold calves at market to be taken automatically to knacker plants and killed for free.

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