Bluetongue restrictions are too rigid and onerous to allow
hundreds of Welsh livestock farmers to run their businesses lawfully
according to CLA, the rural economy experts.
Speaking during a visit to the Vale of Glamorgan, deputy president
Henry Aubrey-Fletcher called for flexibility and a sense of proportion
in dealing with the midge borne virus.
"There is a real danger, with the Bluetongue Protection Zone
coming right up to the Welsh Border, of killing the industry in a misplaced
determination to control the virus", he warned.
"Trading has been entirely disrupted, particularly in the Welsh
Borders, and the effect on livestock prices is devastating.
"Another major problem is that traditional farming practice means
that many, many, farmers particularly those who are progressive and
have expanded by taking on land in England, have animals trapped on
one side of the Border or the other.
"There are sheep away on tack, rams needing to go to ewes, dry
cows and calving heifers, store lambs and others trapped on parcels
of land away from the home farm and technically unable to return for
two years! English border fatstock markets serving welsh needs are
now a one way ticket as animals cannot return, giving buyers the upper
hand on price.
"The impact on farm incomes and on morale is going to be enormous.
Has the Welsh Assembly Government considered what will happen to all
these animals when the keep runs out and tenancies come to an end?
"Animal welfare is a very serious issue and we fully understand
the need to try and protect Welsh livestock from this disease. However
there is also the issue of the welfare of our industry and of our farming
families. Again we ask has the Welsh Assembly Government considered
how they can possibly run their businesses and pay their bills under
Henry Aubrey-Fletcher called on the Welsh Assembly Government to consider
a number of options. These range from including Wales in the Bluetongue
Protection Zone in order to free up trade, imposing less stringent
licensing requirements as is the case in France, except for longer
and potentially riskier east to west movements, and pressing for urgent
action on developing a vaccine.
He added that pressure also had to be brought to bear on the European
Union. The continental experience had shown that the EU regulations
describing the Protection Zone area are too large.
And he stressed that, in addition to the difficulties the Protection
Zone posed for the industry, it was creating a drop in lamb prices
equivalent to the cost to a farmer of losing on average 25% of his
lamb crop to the virus if it struck. The prospect of colder weather,
which kills the midges carrying the disease, and the likelihood of
a vaccine being developed meant that a producer in Wales was as likely
to lose less money through the risk of Bluetongue than through trade
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