Defra has ambushed the livestock industry by stating it will ask farmers to contribute directly to the costs of exotic disease outbreaks.
Even worse the Government proposes that farmers will also have to provide match funding for all the disease surveillance and awareness work that is already included in the government’s current budget.
The shock move, which outlines some of the framework of the imminent consultation on responsibility and cost sharing of animal diseases, is contained in Defra’s response to the Anderson review into the management of the 2007 FMD outbreak, which was released earlier today (February 3rd)
Describing the development as “a stiletto slipped between the ribs of an unsuspecting industry” National Beef Association director, Kim Haywood, says government determination to curb its disease control costs by imposing a headage based levy is now obvious to all.
Future discussion on Responsibility and Cost Sharing (RCS) will now have (i) to focus on how to make sure the exercise is affordable, (ii) to minimise the cost to the hard pressed livestock sector by making sure the industry contribution is spent effectively, and (iii) then to identify exactly which individuals contribute to shared disease control funding.
“The text of Defra’s response to the Anderson Review is already before Parliament so there is no chance of the offending paragraphs being held back for re-consideration. This means an uninformed livestock industry has been well and truly bushwhacked in a carefully planned ambush,” explained Ms Haywood.
“Co-incidentally, Sir Iain Anderson’s main recommendations for the improvement of FMD control include the maintenance of high vigilance levels and recognition of the need to be prepared to launch an immediate and effective counter-assault.”
According to the NBA this will be expensive, which underlines the need for RCS to be an exercise that is affordable to all. PCR tests for bluetongue currently cost £30 a head before laboratory and veterinary charges are included while effective FMD control inevitably means huge bills from the police, trading standards, vets, transporters and carcase destruction specialists.
“Routine control costs are also included in the RCS plan and the biggest of these come from TSE related demands, like the disposal of cattle SRM, and then expense caused by the escalating spread of bovine TB,” said Ms Haywood.
“It is imperative that Defra’s RCS plans are affordable and not something dreamed up in cuckoo land. We have already told government that the beef sector cannot possibly meet the cost of at least £11 a head in levy that will be needed from farmers if cost sharing is implemented as proposed and we will repeat this in our consultation response.”
“It will also be important to identify exactly how much every day disease surveillance and preparedness routines will cost and then calculate the gap between this and what Defra is prepared to pay.”
“And if a levy cannot be avoided, the point of payment - at birth registration or at slaughter, will have to be selected – which raises issues about how additional charges can be collected during, or after, outbreak emergencies.”
“If Defra’s current demands go through virtually unaltered the beef industry will have to have more say on how quickly post-slaughter TSE costs are reduced now that BSE is in dramatic decline, and could also refuse to pay TSE, or other disease related deductions, (currently levied by slaughter companies on a private basis) to ensure that there are no double payments.”
“If the Badger Trust, and other organisations (that resist the inclusion of badgers in direct TB control policies even though infected badgers are officially acknowledged as a principal source of continued TB spread), maintain their earlier attitude then they too should help to meet the cost of controlling TB in cattle,” Ms Haywood added.
Beef Farmers Face Win-Win Market Situation
New Scour Risk Assessment Initiative Aims to Cut Disease Costs
Sorex Annual Study Shows Growing Farm Rat Problems