EU agricultural commissioner Franz Fischler announced yesterday emergency plans for sweeping changes to the block’s beef sector to address the crisis caused by mad cow disease.

A seven-point action plan, costing over €1bn next year alone, will reduce beef output and place the focus on non-intensive production. The EU executive endorsed the plan. A destruction scheme, under which surplus older cattle are destroyed and kept off the market, has been extended until the end of the year.

Money to fund the programme is expected to come from the EU’s  €40bn a year farm budget. Cuts in other sectors of the agricultural budget are likely to fund the beef measures.