28 June 2001
Reform or lose aid, farmers told
By FWi staff
SHEEP producers in Scotland have been told to show commitment to long-term reform if they want help to recover from the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Jim Walker, president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, issued the stark warning at the NFUS annual conference on Thursday (28 June).
Speaking before the conference, he said: We cannot sit back and say we want to see things return to how they were before the disease outbreak.
Mr Walker believes the government will refuse to grant aid to help farmers recover from foot-and-mouth unless the industry takes steps to reform itself.
Some 40,000t of extra sheepmeat, mainly from light hill lambs, is set to flood the domestic market because foot-and-mouth means that it cannot be exported.
But Mr Walker said that securing public support for a disposal scheme to get rid of the sheep would prove hard after the destruction of more than 3m animals.
He said: We must use this as our opportunity to restructure. There is no doubt that there have been too many sheep in this country for too long.
Farmers have been encouraged in the past by the subsidy system to go for numbers rather than quality, he added.
If we had a voluntary quota buy-back scheme then farmers could reduce their stocking rates by, say, 10% or more, he said.
They could continue to farm, and could hopefully manage the reduced number of sheep better and look at improving the quality of product.
We must go down the quality route because the subsidy system is under growing threat and will no longer provide the bulk of farm income in the future.
Mr Walker believes that sheep quota bought back from producers in Scotland could be exchanged for additional suckler cow quota.
We have a good market for quality Scotch beef. For example, we could trade 1m units of sheep quota for an extra 100,000 units of suckler cow quota.
- Scots farmers demand sheep aid, FWi, 28 June 2001
- Scotland unveils farming blueprint, FWi, 26 June 2001
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