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Organisations Unite Against Cost Sharing

by 5m Editor
3 December 2007, at 3:44pm

UK - A coalition of livestock farming organisations from across the UK is calling on the Government to think again on its plans to transfer millions of pounds of the cost of dealing with animal disease outbreaks to livestock farmers still reeling from the impact of this autumn’s foot and mouth and bluetongue crises.

In a public statement the farming organisations say that the Government’s timing is wrong, that costs must be minimised before there is any question of sharing them, and that joint responsibility for animal disease policy must be established before costs are shared.

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“To suggest, against that background, that the industry should be picking up additional costs from Government is divorced from reality”

From a joint statement.

The statement points out that the cost to the livestock sectors of this autumn’s animal disease outbreaks – caused in part by a leak from a Government-regulated research facility – is at least £100 million. In addition, the entire sector is suffering from rocketing feed and energy costs, to which prices have yet to adjust.

“To suggest, against that background, that the industry should be picking up additional costs from Government is divorced from reality”, the statement says.

It continues: “If and when we become involved in detailed discussions on cost sharing, the first step must be to ensure that this work is managed as efficiently as possible so as to minimise the cost, both to industry and Government. And an essential pre-condition for any constructive engagement on this issue is a firm assurance that the industry will be given genuine responsibility for the development and delivery of animal health policy and the way animal disease outbreaks are handled as a quid pro quo for the sharing of costs.”

The Government has indicated that it intends to start consultations on its proposals for cost sharing in England before Christmas.

The farming organisations say this is too hasty, and are asking for a meeting with the Defra Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, “at which we can discuss a more sensible approach”.

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU), President Kenneth Sharkey said; “This is a clear message to Government from the entire UK livestock industry that there is no support for the way this issue is being handled. With so many difficulties in the livestock sector this is the worse possible time to impose additional cost burdens on producers. There can be no deal on animal health cost sharing proposals unless farmers are given a proper input into animal health policy making. For example we have consistently highlighted the Governments reluctance to deal effectively with Bovine TB. Farmers won’t share the cost of TB when there is no comprehensive strategy in place to deal with it, and we are being given no say in future changes to policy. Any additional cost to farmers must deliver benefits to the industry”.

The UFU also re-iterated that farmers already contribute significantly to disease control both in terms of time, such as herd testing, and direct costs. Kenneth Sharkey said; “Last year local farmers conducted 2.5 million animal disease tests on farms. This is just one example of the huge commitment and cost already being met at farm level to deal with the scourge of animal disease”.

Further Reading

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5m Editor