Welsh farmers slate proposed cattle compensation system

The Welsh Government’s proposed plans to change the way compensation is calculated for cattle herds affected by bovine TB has drawn strong criticism from farmers.

The Assembly wants to set payments using a table valuation system that uses average market prices for pre-determined cattle categories, and has launched a consultation seeking farmers’ views on the changes. Currently, compensation is set by individual on-farm valuations based on the full market value of the animals.

The Farmers Union Wales (FUW) said it was wrong to penalise farmers for a disease epidemic caused by successive governments’ inaction on dealing with badgers that spread the disease. “Animals should be valued by professionals based upon on their individual merits,” said Nick Fenwick, director of agricultural policy at FUW. “A basic tabulated system will mean around half of the animals being valued at below their market value, which is indefensible.”

The Welsh Government’s own analysis of compensation payments between 1/10/2011 and 30/9/2012 found that the industry would have lost £3,985,200 in pay-outs had a table valuation system been in place.

But Minister for Natural Resources and Food Alun Davies said there were advantages to adopting the proposed changes. “We need a compensation system that is fair to both cattle-keepers and taxpayers and one that encourages cattle-keepers to play their part in eradicating this disease from Wales. “Adopting this would speed up the removal of diseased animals from farms and reduce the risk of further TB spread.”

Another reason for adopting the proposals was the recent EU Audit and Task Force reports, which criticised the level of TB valuations in Wales compared with published market prices, he said. “By not recognising this criticism, we could jeopardise EU co-financing of certain bovine TB control measures.”

England used this way of calculating compensation payments for bovine TB since 2006, and the Welsh Government is expecting to able to use the same valuation tables.

The consultation will run until 22 April 2014 and is available on the Welsh Government website http://new.wales.gov.uk/consultations/environmentandcountryside/?skip=1&lang=en.

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