ALL FOUR UK farming unions have written to Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers demanding action to protect farm businesses from the beef price crisis.

The letter warns Ms Villiers that there will be 'fundamental damage' to the viability of the UK beef suckler herd if the Government doesn’t take action to address the price situation, and points out the steps already taken by the European Commission to support beef farmers in Ireland to the tune of €100 million.

Jointly, the farming unions – NFU Scotland, NFU, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union – estimate that between November 2018 and August 2019, UK beef farmers lost almost £170 million of income compared to the previous year, with at least £33 million of that lost to Scottish farmers and crofters.

NFU Scotland livestock committee chairman Jimmy Ireland said: “So far there has been very little recognition of the plight of Scottish beef farmers and crofters. We need to see the UK Government show the same recognition of our farmers as the European Commission did for farmers in the Republic of Ireland who are receiving an additional €100 million cash injection.

“At a time when environment is at the top of the agenda, we need to see the Government support local, grass-based suckler beef production, said Mr Ireland. “I am calling on the UK Government to take essential steps to support the sector, including emergency support for Scotland’s beef producers.

“Along with the other farming unions, we are calling for the Government to extend country of origin labelling from fresh beef to all processed beef products and pump prime more investment in marketing through the red meat levy bodies like QMS. Scottish beef farmers and crofters require an urgent resolution to this situation, and we need to finally see action from the UK Government.”

The UK farming unions have called on the UK Government to take the following steps:

  • Examine the impact of the €100 million Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) Scheme for Irish beef farmers and consider emergency support to UK beef producers;
  • Establish a UK-wide a livestock deficiency payment scheme;
  • Have a 'complete re-think' on the current ‘no deal’ Tariff Rate Quota of 230,000 tonnes, and act quickly to amend the tariff policy if there is any distortion seen;
  • Look at the lack of competition in the supply chain for the UK beef sector, expand the scope of the processor code to improve transparency – and make this mandatory in the new agriculture bill;
  • Urgently review public procurement commitments and commit to sourcing UK beef;
  • Move rapidly to introduce country of origin labelling for all processed beef products;
  • Match fund the UK red meat levy bodies – AHDB, QMS, HCC, LMC;
  • Ministers must travel more to expanding markets like China to secure better and faster market access for the beef sector.