The National Beef Association is delighted that years of determined resistance to the disruptive plan to install an expensive and ineffective, levy funded, Animal Health Board quango in England have paid off.
Instead, the Independent Advisory Group, which examined the most helpful way to introduce a joint approach to responsibility and cost sharing on animal disease, has recommended that government accepts the fresh, and exciting, concept of a genuinely new, industry-government, partnership board – and has rejected, without qualification, any thought of raising funding through a hostile, industry-wide, headage, levy.
“If Ministers are prepared to commit to this, and Defra’s top civil servants accept it, then a creative conclusion will have resolved a potentially ugly government-industry dilemma and the threat of a costly government mistake will have been avoided,” said NBA chairman, Oisin Murnion.
“The next challenge is to construct a board of high calibre individuals with sound collective knowledge on farming, animal welfare, disease spread, and government structure, who will be able to absorb advice offered by highly placed civil servants and then report their conclusions directly to the Defra Secretary of State – and if necessary the Prime Minister.”
“The Association will support this process, which requires only a minimum of bureaucracy or establishment expense, and should, if the right people are installed, result in a brand new, and effective, approach to disease cost reduction and outbreak control being established on a cross-England basis.”
The NBA also recommended a root and branch overhaul of the cost of Animal Health (formerly the SVS) and Defra’s administrative structures, and is hugely pleased that the Independent Advisory Group has said the new partnership group’s first task should be a full, bottom-up, value for money, review of the entire range of government’s animal health activity.
“The Association welcomes, as well, the recommendation that the partnership board will establish the structure necessary to reinforce genuine responsibility sharing between industry and government before it turns its deliberations towards cost sharing,” said Mr Murnion.
“The latter raises the stimulating prospect of a fresh examination of the cost to both government and farmers of anti-TB controls, and the continued expense of animal by-product regulation provoked by BSE, which, if resolved, could result in all round cost benefit for the cattle industry, tax payers and government alike.”
“The need to make certain fees and charges, currently associated with national animal health controls, are not dumped on farmers must also be addressed because once in place these will be impossible to recover from the market place and the livestock industry will immediately become less competitive in EU terms.”
“There can be no doubt that new disease cost reduction and control policies constructed through an industry government partnership will require give and take on both sides if it is to succeed - and the NBA recognises this.”
“It also notes that a review of compensation arrangements, which will surely include TB, and the prospect of a re-examination of insurance against disease loss through TB or even FMD, are expected to be undertaken too.”
“Each of these are extremely difficult issues and the Association has no doubt that all the collective wisdom of a wisely selected partnership board will be needed to resolve them to the mutual satisfaction of both farmers and government. It looks forward to a series of shrewd, and intelligent, solutions being achieved.”
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