NFU Deputy President Tim Bennett will fly to Strasbourg tonight for talks throughout the day tomorrow with members of the European Parliament on a series of critical issues for British farmers.

At the top of the agenda at Wednesday's meetings will be the continuing foot and mouth disaster, which has now hit Continental Europe.

Other vital issues that Mr Bennett will discuss with MEPs will be the Commission's proposals to reduce beef production* and the sugar reform proposals.

He will meet with the UK Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat groups of MEPs as well as members of the UK Green Group - Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party. Talks are also planned with non-British MEPs.

Mr Bennett said: "Last time I was in Brussels, MEPs were keen for me to outline how British farmers were faring as the foot and mouth crisis began to take hold.

"Now, with the spread of the disease here and the fact that it has crossed the Channel, the talks will undoubtedly be much graver."

He added: "On top of foot and mouth we have a series of other issues which we are desperately trying to tackle.

"The Commission's proposals to re-balance the beef market, following a drop in consumption in mainland Europe due to BSE, unfairly penalises British farmers.

"We will do everything we can to stop these ill-thought-out proposals progressing and will be enlisting the support of MEPs in this campaign.

"On sugar, the need to safeguard production in the UK and the rest of Europe is vital. I will press home that it is vital that any new system is not abused. MEPs need to be fully aware of the situation."

Notes to editors:

*The Commission beef proposals include the imposition of quotas on the Beef Special Premium Scheme, a reduction in stocking density rates and the mandatory minimum 20% heifer rule under the Suckler Cow Premium. The NFU believes they will do nothing to address the key issue of lack of confidence in the market place now.

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this document, the NFU cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.  This information should not be regarded as constituting legal advice, and should therefore not be relied upon as such.  NFU©

just-food.com published a feature on foot and mouth. To read it, click here.