Mike Ingham
The clash between CAP reforms and the possible ending of the Over Thirty Month Scheme scheme creates an uncertain future for beef supply-side prices.
As part of the "historic" EU agreement last week, handouts of public money to farmers will become less dependent upon production volumes.
Industry reactions suggested the EU deal would result in continuing gradual decline of British beef production, as predicted by the MLC, but not the sharp drop forecast a few months ago.
Robert Forster, chief executive of protectionist lobbying group the National Beef Association said he was confident the more flexible arrangements agreed by the EU ministers could maintain output from the specialist beef sector in Britain.
Yet in the short term, the possible abolition or relaxation of OTMS could cause serious oversupply and weaken consumer demand.
The FSA was this week due to consider recommendations to replace the rule.
Allowing these older animals back into the chain would mean huge amounts of meat coming back on to the market.
The MLC says that if all OTMS cattle were returned to the food chain, this would lead to an extra 245,000 tonnes of beef available for consumption annually.
In reality, the tonnage increase will be smaller, as the authorities are sure to retain some restrictions on the eligibility of older cattle for sale as food.
But DEFRA officials are talking openly of an extra annual supply of about 150,000 tonnes from this source hitting the UK market from early next year.