• TRAVELLERS to north Africa are being warned to take all necessary precautions to protect EU livestock from a serious outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Statements from the Belgian and Irish governments advise people visiting these countries to avoid contact with animals, not to bring back meat or dairy products and to disinfect clothing and footwear before re-entering EU farms.
• THE first case of BSE this year, and the eighth in total, has been discovered on a Belgian farm.
The cow in question, and 161 others in the herd, have been destroyed, in keeping with Belgian national policy.
• NFU leader Ben Gill has been elected as one of four vice-presidents of COPA, the umbrella group representing Europes farming unions.
The new COPA president, who holds the job for the next two years, is Noel Devisch of the Belgian farm union Boerenbond.
• LEADING biotech firms Novartis, Monsanto, Pioneer and Agrevo have decided to abandon plans for field trials of a genetically modified crop in Austria, according to reports from the Reuters news agency.
Negative public opinion and a lack of government support are blamed for the companies decision.
Scots put pressure on Bank of England to curb £ power
By Allan Wright
SCOTTISH farming leaders are stepping up their efforts to persuade the Bank of Englands Monetary Policy Committee that more action is needed to counter the continued strength of sterling. The plight of dairy farmers is at the forefront of the action.
"Every sector is suffering from the strong £, but milk is particularly badly affected. We are facing a further cut in producer prices and we must seek some action," said Scottish NFU president, Jim Walker.
The union is meeting Bank of England Scottish representative Catriona Brown today (Friday) and has invited Scottish Milk chairman John Duncan to attend. Mr Duncan will also join the union meeting later this month with the Monetary Policy Committee adviser for Scotland, Jim Stretton.
Mr Duncan welcomed the invitations and confirmed that the strength of sterling was the biggest single factor in low producer returns. "The high value of the pound reduces intervention price support; it sucks in imports of dairy products, and it makes our exports uncompetitive," he said.
Although contracts with some customers had not been concluded, Mr Duncan expected Scottish Milk prices to follow Milk Marques drop of 0.85p/litre, which would mean a producer return of around 15p after seasonal deductions in May and June.
But Mr Duncan was less concerned about reports that Scottish milk quota was moving to England and Northern Ireland. "It will be some time before the Intervention Board tells us the final position at the end of March. However, we know that current milk deliveries suggest there has been no loss of quota. We suspect it will be the same story as last year when we had increased production but from fewer producers," he said. *
Welsh Assembly guide ignores farms
A GUIDE to the National Assembly for Wales delivered to every Welsh household makes no mention of farming.
The 10-page Their Future Your Vote bi-lingual publication lists 10 key sectors for which the assembly will be responsible, including the environment, but ignores the fact that the new body will be responsible for spending around £260m/year on agriculture.
Powys farmer Derek Morgans response to the Welsh Office booklet was typical. As heavy snow disrupted lambing at Safan-y-Coed, Llangurig, he described the omission of farming as disgusting, but no surprise.
"This is just another example of the way the contribution of agriculture to food production and the rural economy is being increasingly devalued," said Mr Morgan, who chairs the Farmers Union of Waless hill farming committee. "Politicians and civil servants are interested in the countryside, but only from an environmental standpoint."
Peredur Hughes, vice-president of NFU Cymru-Wales, said many angry members had contacted him about the booklet. He had complained on their behalf to the Welsh Office, but said he had received the apathetic response usually made to farming issues.
"We are campaigning to push agriculture higher up the Welsh Assemblys agenda and have published an election manifesto," said Mr Hughes. "Missing out farming from this publication illustrates the monumental task we face. Some 80% of the land of Wales lies north of a line drawn east to west through Merthyr Tydfil, but 80% of the population lives to the south. Most assembly members will represent people with little interest in farmings problems." *
EU meat inspectors
BRUSSELS inspectors were in the UK this week, assessing the suitability of certain meat plants to start beef exports under the date-based scheme.
Two abattoirs have put themselves forward for consideration – Kepak at Turriff in north-east Scotland, and St Merryn Meat at Probus in Cornwall.
The meat plant inspections focus on the systems in place to guarantee the meat comes only from eligible cattle. Systems include traceability, separation and record keeping.
The inspectors then have 25 days to prepare a report on their findings, with MAFF and the Scottish Office given another 25 days to respond.
Assuming there are no problems, the report will then go to the standing veterinary committee in Brussels for final approval. On this basis, the earliest exports could resume would be mid-June. *