Beef production within the UK could fall by anything between 30-50 per cent

within five years if CAP reforms that propose single farm subsidy payments without any obligation to produce are agreed by Ministers, the National Beef Association claimed today.

It says this raises serious issues about national food security and is highly critical of local ecologists who think reducing domestic stock numbers will have a beneficial impact on the global environment.

"No official figures on the likely decline of the EU and UK beef herds are available but in our submission to Defra on CAP reform we have said we are certain that unless there is a significant rise in the market value of domestic beef cattle farmers will respond to a singe farm payment by carrying less animals," explained NBA national chairman, Robert Robinson.

"Our own view is that the likely result of producers receiving aggregated beef payments regardless of whether or not there are cattle on the farm is that far fewer cattle will be carried - although we accept that our figure of a 30-50 per cent reduction by 2009 is guesswork based on commonsense."

"We find it impossible to think there can be any other result than a dramatic reduction in the national herd and in view of this have told Defra it must install a qualifying stocking rate so that all farms receiving subsidy carry at least some cattle and beef industry structures are offered some long term protection."

And the Association is appalled that the UK government, and the European Commission, appear prepared to jettison EU livestock production in favour of concerns over the sustainability of domestic agriculture that have still to be properly defined.

"Huge issues will emerge if this nebulous policy is allowed to be adopted unchallenged. Not least of these is food security and the likely damage to the world's ecology if our own beef production is transferred to other counties, which unlike our own, have no environmental conscience whatsoever," said Mr Robinson.

"It is utterly unrealistic for the government to regard our troubled world as a supermarket that it can visit at guaranteed intervals with its shopping trolley." P2)

"And we cannot believe it can contemplate a reduction in domestic beef production on the scale we consider likely when one of the most obvious sources of replacement beef is Brazil where the unhappy marriage between logging and cattle farming means huge swathes of the equatorial rain forest are removed daily."

"Domestic environmentalists whose views are restricted to the unfortunate fate of the corncrake or rare plants like the Blue Gentian must very quickly accept that their importance is insignificant beside the fate of the South American rain forest which is the lungs of the planet and without which all species, including ourselves, would struggle to survive."

"Our very simple and very real contention is that the world, Europe and the UK itself would be much better off if as much beef as possible was produced within our own carefully regulated borders, " he added.

For further information contact:

Robert Robinson, NBA national chairman. Tel. 01665 575 223