Ministers fight to soften blow of subsidy mix up

6 August 1999

Organic tour visits estate of Prince Charles

MORE than 40 National Trust tenants from as far afield as Cumbria and East Anglia have visited Prince Charless Duchy Home Farm in Gloucs on an organic fact-finding tour.

The National Trust, whose 1100 tenants farm about 142,692 (360,000 acres), has allocated £600,000 to fund a range of schemes aimed at boosting its farms income and environmental potential.

The visit was part of the trusts bid to help tenants learn more about converting to organic agriculture.

Rob Macklin, the trusts agricultural adviser, said money would be available to help tenants produce feasibility studies and conversion plans.

He added: "Although we do not wish to force the organic option on farmers, it should be encouraged where appropriate, most importantly by helping to provide sufficient information to tenants to make a sound decision to pursue conversion." &#42

MLCplea on pig burden

MEAT and Livestock Commission chairman Don Curry has written to MAFF calling for action over the continuing financial burden that BSE-related measures are inflicting on the pigsector.

Mr Curry explained that factors such as the loss of any market for porcine meat and bonemeal and the cost for disposal of on-farm deaths had resulted in costs exceeding £5 a pig.

"With the pig industry losses at £1.8m a week and a cumulative loss of £265m since May 1998 – when the price first fell below break-even levels – these BSE related costs need to be addressed now.

"There would appear to be no movement in re-opening the market for rendered porcine products either now or in the foreseeable future, hence the need for ministers to consider ways of helping the British pig industry to compete in the European market," said Mr Curry. &#42

Ministers fight to soften blow of subsidy mix up

SCOTLANDS new farm minister Ross Finnie has promised to do all he can to soften the blow of sheep subsidies being reclaimed by the EU Commission.

As revealed exclusively in FARMERS WEEKLY (July 2), around 250 Scottish farmers who had de-stocked hill land under the environmentally sensitive area scheme were allowed by the Scottish Office to transfer the sheep annual premium quota claim to non-ESA parts of the farm.

That was subsequently ruled illegal by the commission which demanded that the farmers repay the subsidies.

"The mistake in interpretation of the rules was in the Scottish Office. But the commission has told us that we cannot repay the money, it has to come from the farmers concerned," said Mr Finnie.

"What I am determined to do is to soften the blow as much as possible and we are asking the commission to recognise the hardship caused and allow the money to be repaid over a period of years. It may even be possible to reclaim the money out of future SAP payments," he said during a tour of south-west Scotland last week.

About 10,000 units of SAP quota are involved, representing an annual subsidy income of £250,000. But, for some farmers, subsidy has been wrongfully paid for four years and one is facing a repayment bill of £7500.

Mr Finnie also said he was seeking early clearance for interim arrangements on hill livestock compensatory allowances, which are due to change from headage to area payments. "We are trying to get the details finalised but I think we will need an interim system for the coming season," he said.

That pleased Durisdeer farmer Robert Osborne who said it was vital that the correct signals went out to farmers before the annual round of breeding sales.

"The sheep industry is on a knife edge at the moment and the uncertainty does not help," he said.

Mr Osborne is converting most of his farm and stock to organic production and he heard from Mr Finnie that new rates of aid for conversion would be announced within the next few weeks.

"I am anxious to make an announcement about a future agri-environment scheme for Scotland. Officials have been working hard on the new scheme all summer and I hope to have clearance from Europe in time to make an announcement and begin the final round of consultation within weeks rather than months," said Mr Finnie.

"But I can confirm that the organic aid scheme will be kept separate," he added. &#42

More than 1200 lambs from this years crop at one of the biggest store lamb sales of the year at Stamford, Lincs. Grant Murray of Murrays Auctioneers, which conducted the sale, believed that the high throughput was due to a lack of grass available for finishing. This has encouraged more producers to sell lambs for the store market and pushed the price down to 70p/kg, he said.

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