13 July 2001
Thirty-month scheme to restart
By Donald MacPhail
FARMERS will soon be able to put cattle into the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS) again, but face delays until foot-and mouth is defeated.
The scheme to remove older cattle most at risk from BSE from the food chain is set to restart on in England and Wales on 30 July.
In Scotland, which has more rendering capacity, it will resume a week earlier, Secretary of State Margaret Beckett told the Commons on Thursday (12 July).
Mrs Beckett told MPs that she expected to receive a recommendation to resume the OTMS from the Intervention Board, which runs the scheme.
A growing backlog of 250,000 animals has caused huge problems for farmers since the scheme was suspended in February because of foot-and-mouth.
But this will take some time to clear as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs concedes that there is not enough rendering capacity.
Abattoirs and renderers in England and Wales have been stretched to their limits coping with the foot-and-mouth cull.
It is also feared that a shortage of vets available to oversee slaughter could also prevent the scheme resuming at some abattoirs.
“Stakeholders are well aware that the resumption of the OTMS will be limited by rendering capacity due to foot-and-mouth,” said a DEFRA spokesman.
He refused to be drawn on a timescale for getting through the OTMS backlog.
“It would be rash to predict that as we dont know how long the tail of foot and-mouth will be,” he said.
“But we are all hoping to that it can be eradicated sooner rather than later and that personnel and resources can go back to OTMS as soon as possible.
News that the OTMS was to be resumed was welcomed by farmers leaders who said it would alleviate some of the unbearable pressure on producers.
NFU president Ben Gill said: “This is very good news and reflects the intense lobbying that has been going on to get this vital scheme re-opened.
“Even starting now it will be difficult and will require patience on the part of producers to catch up with the outstanding numbers.
“Every effort must be made to reduce these numbers urgently.”
NFU Scotland president Jim Walker said: “This is great news. It is one more step in the process of easing the restrictions created in the fight against foot and mouth.
“There is still along way to go, but this will come as a great relief for cattle farmers and will allow them to start planning.”
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