Defra’s contentious plans to acquire cash to fund its new plans for animal health control in England through a headage tax on farm stock can be side stepped, says the National Beef Association.
It describes a headage tax, or levy, as a “lazy” way of raising revenue and wants Defra to find the money by reducing the cost of running its Animal Health control programmes.
“Instead of installing an expensive new organisation, that may be modeled on the over-staffed and sluggish Food Standards Agency, to run animal health policies mainly funded by farmers, Defra should appoint a much cheaper industry-government group that can meet in its existing offices and have immediate access to Department heads and the Secretary of State,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.
“One of this group’s first tasks should be to save farmers, tax payers and government a fortune by putting all animal health control programmes and finances under a microscope and stripping out its inefficiencies.”
“The money recovered could then be used to fund solutions to both routine, and epidemic, disease problems and unpopular plans to take money directly off farmers could be dropped.”
“The NBA is dismayed that Defra hopes revenue to finance its favoured operation will arrive through a registration scheme for livestock farmers under which an annual fee per head would be set for each species and payments would be based on the number and type of animal each farmer owned.”
“Under current plans such a scheme would have to generate £425 million a year to fund Defra’s unreformed Animal Health operation and then acquire a building for the proposed new body which could require a one-off payment of at least £150 million.”
“On top of this contingency funding to meet the expense of exotic disease outbreaks, like FMD, avian flu, bluetongue and swine fever, would have to be accumulated for research into exotic disease protection, also funded with levy proceeds too.”
“It is possible that if Defra’s plans went through unchallenged that the annual payment on adult cattle could, over a number of years, average something in the region of £30 a head. It is presumed there would be reduced payments for calves and immature animals.”
“And it is significant that Dutch dairy farmer objections to the import of veal calves from the UK on health grounds were the result of a fear factor because the Dutch Government threatened to increase the disease control levy currently paid by farmers. The NBA does not want to see cattle producers in the UK held to the same ransom,” Ms Haywood added.
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