Lower BSE costs helps MAFF cash cuts

15 July 1998

Lower BSE costs helps MAFF cash cuts

THE Treasury will make large farming budget savings over the next three years with a cut in real terms of £300 million at the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF), reports the Financial Times. Much of this will be down to the falling costs of support to the beef industry as BSE dies out.

Agriculture minister, Dr Jack Cunningham, has also decreased other farm subsidies to bring support of the farming industry to what he calls “a
more sustainable level”.

The Financial Times said MAFFs budget was always going to be a likely candidate for savings in the spending review, “because Labour governments seldom feel much sympathy for the farming community given that it consistently tends to vote Tory”.

But the newspaper argues that a cut in real terms from £1.4 billion this year to £1.1 billion in 2001-02 hardly amounts to a radical scaling back of farm support.

It said future agriculture spending cuts largely depend on the European Union agreeing to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget reductions.

In exchange for the leniency of the settlement, Dr Cunningham has promised to refocus the department to better serve consumers. In fact, the ministry has been given a new mission statement which puts consumers at the top of its agenda.

The new aim is: “To ensure consumers benefit from competitively-priced food, produced to high standards of safety, environmental care and animal welfare and from a sustainable, efficient food chain; and to contribute to the well-being of rural and coastal communities.”

Charles Kennedy, Lib-Dem agriculture spokesman, said he found it “alarming” the ministry no longer puts farmers at the top of its agenda.

Tony Blair, prime minister, is considering revamping the ministry as a department for rural affairs. The reorganisation could be carried out before the end of this month.

  • Financial Times 15/07/98 page 13
  • The Times 15/07/98 page 9

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