Detailed changes to cattle aid regime seem likely to affect UK disproportionately Price and supply prospects in the already confused British beef market were further clouded on Tuesday night after European Commission officials met in Strasbourg and proposed a new package of measures to deal with the BSE crisis. Some of the policy and administrative changes were predictable following disappointing reactions in the marketplace and member states to earlier measures intended to bring supply into line with sharply reduced demand. Announcing this latest plan agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler told the European Parliament: "The beef market is in deep crisis, prices have dropped dramatically, and that's why we have to introduce this further seven point emergency plan." But a couple of the new proposals have come as unpleasant surprises to the British beef industry (and to its competitors in Ireland). The Commission wants to reimpose the 90-head limit per farm on payment of the Beef Special Premium subsidy. Other detailed changes to the cattle aid regime also seem likely to affect the UK disproportionately. The practical implications for retailers and processors here seem likely to include more limited supply and perhaps harder prices of the best quality home produced steer beef over the medium term, dashing hopes raised by the government's recent decision to abandon the restriction on BSP payments in this country. The underlying theme of the Commission's proposals seems consumer-friendly, emphasising organic or at least "natural" production methods and discouraging industrial farming. But an immediate chorus of protest from the British beef sector demonstrated fear of an economic bias against farmers and their main commercial customers here. Buyers of third country beef also suspect trouble ahead as the new measures appear certain to make EU producers more dependent on official protection against lower-cost external competitors. {{M/E MEAT }}