Farmers in crisis may get Whitehall aid from Whitehall paves way for aid to farmers

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The Independent Online
AGRICULTURE MINISTER Nick Brown signalled yesterday that the Government is ready to give further aid to farmers..

He said farmers had made a "persuasive case" for more targeted help to solve the immediate crisis in agriculture.

He told BBC1's On the Record programme: "What I have to do is to ensure that any assistance that is given - and resources are pretty limited - is targeted at the immediate crisis and it does not in the long term make matters worse.

"Our agenda toward liberalisation of the market is clearly the way forward."

He said the package could include extending the cattle subsidy offered to BSE-hit farmers should the beef ban not be lifted by Christmas.

"I have set a target for myself to make sure that the issue is drawn to a conclusion before Christmas but it is not my ban," said Mr Brown.

"I have got to persuade other ministers, who have not got the same vested interest as Britain, to lift the ban."

The Government would also consider seeking money from the European agriculture compensation fund.

Mr Brown added that farming was going through "difficult times" with some sectors, including pig farmers and hill farmers, facing a crisis.

Referring to farmers' complaints that the big stores had not dropped the price of meat despite the collapse in the market, Mr Smith said he wanted to speak to the wholesalers and the supermarkets before he made a decision.

"It is a fairly complex matter and I want to discuss it with both sides of the industry. I do not want to set people up as villains and victims."

And he refused to urge people to eat British meat saying that the UK had obligations toward its European partners. "The market exists within the European Union and we have our obligations to our trading partners," he said.

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