MAFFchops summer beef scheme cash
By Shelley Wright
NFU leader, Sir David Naish, has attacked governments decision to fund an extension of the second beef marketing scheme by cutting payments to producers who sold cattle between July and September.
Farm minister, Douglas Hogg, announced a second tranche of beef aid, worth £29m, in October. And in line with NFU recommendations, he allocated the money to the July-September period.
But this week MAFF revealed that the flat-rate payment for cattle sold for slaughter during that time would be £55 a head, compared with the £66.76 paid for cattle sold between Mar 20 and June 30.
About 400,000 cattle qualified, taking up £22m, and Mr Hogg said the other £7m would be offered to those who sold prime cattle between Oct 1 and Nov 9 last year. Depending on the number of claims, a flat-rate payment of between £36 and £49 a beast is likely to be available.
But Sir David criticised the minister for diluting payments to allow the extension. "Although we welcome the ministers recognition of the need for a marketing payment for the October to early November period, we are concerned about the way in which the government intends to finance it," he said.
"In effect, the payments for July to September have been diluted in order to fund the extension of the scheme into later in the year." And that, he said, meant two groups of farmers were losing out in comparison to those who received compensation in the first beef marketing payment scheme.
But MAFF hit back, saying the minister had decided to cap July-September payments at £55 a beast to allow an extension, thereby ensuring that as many farmers as possible were compensated.
The NFU had wanted the minister to use some of the UKs £50m share of EU beef aid to offer full compensation for the October-November marketing period.
It had also asked for £50,000 to be given to specialist veal producers. It wanted the remaining money to be allocated to suckler herds, with proportionately more going to lowland suckler producers.
Mr Hogg is expected to announce how he plans to spend the £50m in his address to next weeks NFU annual meeting in London.