The NFU will this week continue its sustained campaign against damaging beef proposals put forward by the European Commission with a series of high level meetings in both Europe and the UK.
NFU representatives will lobby Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne, Head of the Commission’s DG Agriculture Silva Rodriguez and UK Agriculture Minister Nick Brown over the next few days.
The NFU believes the proposals – put forward in response to the collapse of the beef market in mainland Europe – will do nothing to address the key issue of lack of confidence in the market place now.
NFU President Ben Gill said: “These ill-thought-out plans have major and damaging implications for UK beef producers who are already dramatically under-supplying their own domestic market as a result of the continuing compulsory slaughter and destruction of all cattle over 30 months of age. They are unacceptable.
“They almost imply that the Commission, by wanting to cut back on long-term production, has given up the fight of winning back EU consumers’ faith in beef.
“They totally ignore the need to re-establish consumer demand in the rest of the EU and the need for the urgent full implementation of the payment and destruction scheme across the EU, as agreed at the Agriculture Council in December.
“The Commission is very much mistaken if it thinks we will sit back and accept this. We intend to fight these proposals vigorously until they are thrown out.”
Following a meeting with German farmers’ leaders on the issue in Munich last night, Mr Gill today travelled to Brussels where Livestock Committee Chairman Les Armstrong will join him for talks with Commissioner Byrne. Mr Armstrong will also meet Mr Rodriguez on Wednesday.
Then, with other UK officeholders, Mr Gill will meet Nick Brown on Thursday to urge him to strongly oppose the “unworkable, highly bureaucratic” proposals.
The 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 Commission thinks they will help reduce the massive over-supply of beef in Europe because of BSE fears.
Mr Armstrong said: “We have consistently said that the way to solve the problem is to boost confidence in European beef, as we have done in our own product. These proposals will do nothing to help this.
“We do not intend to give up until we have turned the Commission to our way of thinking on this – there is too much at stake.”