Demand for aid package

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The Independent Online
An immediate support package to help beef farmers through the winter was demanded by Liberal Democrats yesterday, writes Stephen Goodwin. With beef bull prices down up to pounds 200 a head, some farmers faced bankruptcy, the conference was told.

In an emergency debate on the BSE crisis, a succession of farmers came to rostrum to denounce Douglas Hogg and his Government colleagues. Compensation to beef farmers amounting to about pounds 54 a head was dismissed as a "flea bite".

Jim Barnard, parliamentary candidate for Tiverton and Honiton, said that as a farmer, life had become "an horrific rollercoaster ride of contradictory announcements and pathetic day-to-day management" by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Early in the summer ministers predicted that the backlog of cattle over 30 months old awaiting the cull would be cleared by October. But Mr Barnard said that in the South-West of England alone there was still a backlog of almost 100,000 animals. "Farmers are entering the winter with more animals than they have fodder to feed," he said.

The conference called for immediate support to maintain the beef industry, emergency powers to remove the backlog of cattle awaiting the cull and the creation of a Food Safety Commission to reduce the risk of similar crises.