§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will detail the assistance given to dairy farmers since 1 January; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson
The decision by the European Council in February to extend the operation of quotas until 1992 gives dairy farmers the assurances they need in order to be able to plan for the future. At the same time it was agreed that financial compensation for the suspension of quotas would be continued beyond 1989.
The Government secured changes in Community regulations to improve the operation of the adjustment to milk quotas to take account of changes in butterfat levels, and clarified the operation of the national rules relating to quota transfers. Changes in the conversion rate for the green pound will also lead to some increase in the support levels for dairy farmers from 1 January 1989.
ADAS continues to help farmers develop sound production and business strategies in times when output is limited by quotas and the Government are supporting a number of projects at research centres which are of relevance to dairy farmers. Dairy products are among those supported by Food from Britain and my Department is in the final stages of preparing, with the industry, a dairy product programme under EC regulation 355/77.
Direct support in the dairy sector represented over £90 per cow in 1987–88 and this together with the industry's own skill in adapting to milk production under quotas, has led to a steady rise in average dairy farm incomes over the past three years.