2016-05-13   facebooktwitterrss

Strong Messages from Food and Farming Minister

The National Sheep Association (NSA) was greeted with strong and progressive messages from George Eustice, Food and Farming Minister, during a meeting on Wednesday 11th April.

A representative of NSA office holders took the opportunity to meet Mr Eustice in London to discuss a number of issues and concerns affecting sheep farmers across the UK. With talks focussed around the pending EU referendum, BPS payment delays and TSEs, it was encouraging to hear a number of constructive and clear responses throughout, and interesting to hear about the structures he suggested would be put in place in the event of a UK exit from the EU

NSA Meeting

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says:
“As an open and firm supporter of the UK leaving the EU, Mr Eustice made clear a plethora of opportunities he felt it had to offer, while suggesting it would essentially be a blank canvass for future financial support and trade activity. He outlined a number of practical options for alternative support payment structures, and was particularly keen to abolish the ‘chaos of an annual application’ as he described current protocol. Mr Eustice was also optimistic that a mutual reliance on imports and exports between the UK and other European countries would allow trade to continue.”

NSA took the opportunity to seek clarity on the impending decision surrounding TSE’s and carcase splitting, making the case that the Ministers own suggestion for an end of May cut off date, prior to which there would be no toothing and no splitting but with the ability to tooth after this date, was what the industry wanted.

Mr Stocker continues:
“Through this process we have been pushed back from an end of June to an end of May date, on the basis that we could revert to toothing after the end of May cut-off. However, if this is the only offer on the table, after which all old season lambs would need to be spilt, we strongly feel we’d be better off remaining with the current rules. What is unforgiveable is a unanimous agreement among Ministers, Government and even the Food Standards Agency that there is no risk to human health from Scrapie, yet no one is prepared to stand up and do anything about it, not to mention the wasted time and effort we’ve gone to so far during this process”.

“It was encouraging to hear Mr Eustice echo NSA’s frustrations on the increasing amount of red tape and regulation farmers are up against, and his promise appears to be that if we exit the EU we can drastically reduce this while still demonstrating equivalence with EU regulations for trade”.

Frustrations over Basic Payment Scheme delays and confusion over 2016 Single Farm Payment applications were also brought to the table, and Mr Eustice sympathised with the lack of confidence many producers are currently feeling towards the RPA. He also confirmed there is a degree of leeway in place for farmers who submit an incorrect claim due to an absence of confirmation of eligibility for a post 16th May payment, encouraging farmers to submit their applications on time, based on the information they have available.

Meeting Mr Eustice were:-

  • Samuel Wharry, sheep farmer (Ballymena, County Antrim), NSA Chairman.

  • George Milne, sheep farmer (St. Andrews, Fife), NSA Scottish Region Development Officer.

  • Dan Phipps, sheep farmer (Newmarket, Suffolk), NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee Chairman, and NSA Eastern Region Chairman.

  • Bryan Griffiths, sheep farmer (Burrington, North Devon), NSA English Committee Chairman.

  • Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive.


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