25 July 2001
Welfare scheme payments slashed
By Donald MacPhail
PAYMENTS have been slashed by almost two-thirds for light lambs slaughtered under the foot-and-mouth welfare scheme.
Payments for heavier lambs have also been reduced under changes to the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme.
The reductions are another blow for light-lamb producers already suffering from a collapse in traditional Continental markets due to a ban on exports.
They raise the prospect that many light lambs normally destined for the overseas market could flood the UK market in the autumn.
With little domestic demand for lighter stock, it is expected that farmers will try to enter thousands more home-reared sheep into the disposal scheme.
The payment rates for breeding cows entered into the scheme have also been cut, but the figure for pigs remains mostly unchanged.
This provides some relief for producers with cull sows normally exported to the Continent, but virtually worthless in the UK.
The National Farmers Union expressed concerns at the cuts – the second round of reductions in three months – and warned of animal welfare problems.
Union president Ben Gill said the cuts would “add to the acute financial pressure on vulnerable producers forced to use the scheme.”
Pressure has been growing for reduced payments to encourage farmers to take advantage of relaxed controls on sending stock from infected areas for slaughter.
The changes were announced by Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs junior minister Lord Whitty on Tuesday (24 July) evening.
He said: “Payment rates and categories of animals taken under the scheme have been adjusted to reflect seasonal changes, and changes in the market.”
Under new rates 35p/kg liveweight is paid for lambs under 30kg liveweight with a 10 ceiling, and 70/kg liveweight with a 25 ceiling for heavier stock.
Previously new season lambs were valued at 95p/kg liveweight with a cap at 32 per animal.
Payments for cows and heifers over 21 months have been set at 700 for animals up to four years and 350 for stock over four years.
This compares with a previous flat rate for breeding cows and heifers of 900.
Pig payments remain at a 12 flat rate and 55p/kg liveweight. However, the cap has been reduced from 50 to 45 per animal.
The number of animals entering the scheme has dropped steeply since restrictions eased and some scheme payments were reduced on 30 April.
The NFU is already taking legal action against the government over a previous reduction to scheme payments which was announced in April.
More than 1.2 million animals from over 8000 premises have been slaughtered under the scheme and 105 million has been paid to farmers.
Farmers have until Friday (27 July) to apply at the old payment rate. Rates will be reviewed again in September.
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