31 October 2001
Government says no to arable aid
By Tom Allen-Stevens
THE governments rural spending record is under attack after ministers refused to apply for 57m in aid from Brussels for arable farmers.
Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty wrote to National Farmers Union president Ben Gill to say no aid would be forthcoming.
NFU cereals committee chairman Richard Butler accused the government of taking a positive step to discriminate against UK agriculture.
The governments record was nothing short of disgraceful.
Lord Whitty said the government would not apply for 57m of agrimonetary aid available to offset the weak Euro which has devalued farm subsidies.
The application deadline was set to expire on Wednesday (31 October).
NFU deputy president Tim Bennett, who met Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett in a failed last minute bid to persuade her to apply said he was very annoyed.
The reason that governments sign up to the agrimonetary system is to make sure the single market operates fairly for all those within it, he said.
The government needs to start to be proud of UK agriculture and facilitate the rural recovery, rather than insist on playing the role of regulator.
Labour has granted arable farmers just 738m out of an available 2bn in agrimoney from Brussels since it came to power in 1997.
Mr Bennett said British farmers deserved to be rewarded for their huge advances in animal welfare and care for the environment.
If ministers continue to work against our efforts to turn farming fortunes around, it will put this industry out of business as a mainstream player.
The Country Land and Business Association accused the government of suffering from a plain lack of understanding about rural issues.
CLA policy director Allan Buckwell said reluctance to pay agrimonetary aid sent a shocking signal at a time when the industry was on its knees.
Over the last three years US farmers, for example, havent suffered anything like as much as UK farmers.
Yet their government recognises that you cant just walk away from a sector so exposed to the weather and market fluctuations.
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