1 December 1999
Minister will ‘see farmers in court’
By Alistair Driver
AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown told farmers he will see them in court in response to their efforts to sue him for “discrimination against the pig industry”.
The British Pig Industry Support Group and the National Pig Association have claimed strong support for raising £100,000 for legal action against Mr Brown.
They claim the government failed to compensate producers for an £80 million annual cost imposed on the industry in relation to BSE safety measures.
But Mr Brown denied he had neglected the industry and insisted there would be no money made available to compensate farmers for the “BSE tax”.
“What they want is a cash injection into the industry, but I cant do this,” he told Farmers Weekly.
Mr Brown rejected the NPAs argument that the money the industry wants is not to gain a competitive edge over competitors, but to redress a disadvantage..
“You can dress it up however you like – it will be a cash injection into the industry and the EU has very strict views about that,” he said.
Mr Brown angered farmers by claiming the “extraordinary optimism which the industry showed back in 1996 when prices were very high” boosted pig production
He said this underpinned the current situation of a “substantially oversupplied EU market” and the loss of demand in large markets in Russia and eastern Europe.
“When prices are high you should cut production, when prices are low you should increase production – classic pig cycle,” he said.
“It takes a brave man to do it and they didnt. Prices were high and they increased production and the market became oversupplied.”
The real issue, Mr Brown added, was not the high costs imposed on the industry, but the need to get a premium price for UK pigmeat.
Digby Scott, spokesman for the BPISG, said the ministers comments were surprising to say the least.
“It was only a few weeks ago … that he recognised BSE measures had imposed a very heavy load on the UK pig industry and promised to try and help,” he said.