Moves to protect the beef industry from the impact of removing the Over Thirty Month Scheme are being made by the government.

DEFRA has confirmed it will ask the European Commission for a market support scheme to help the industry when OTMS comes to an end.

The ministry is looking for permission to introduce a purchase for destruction scheme which will buy up cattle after prices drop below a predetermined level.

If ministers accept the Food Standards Agency’s recommendation to allow cattle born after August 1996 back into the food chain from January 2004, it will mean an extra 155,000 tonnes coming back on to the market. Although the Commission is thought to be unsure of approving a scheme, DEFRA said talks were taking place at a high level.

Meanwhile the National Farmers’ Union said such a scheme would only be necessary as a last resort.