NFU puts livestock recovery options to government

NFU leaders have held initial discussions with the government about looking at the financial consequences" of the FMD and bluetongue outbreaks.

NFU leaders have held initial discussions with senior Government officials about putting flesh on the bones of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's weekend statement in which he asked Defra secretary of state, Hilary Benn, to "look at the financial consequences" of the FMD and bluetongue outbreaks.

Among a range of options being considered are early delivery of Single Payment Scheme, a payment to all affected livestock farmers, a supplement to the hill farming allowance, a scheme to encourage public procurement of lamb that cannot at present be exported, and development of a welfare disposal scheme for animals trapped by FMD movement restrictions.

Gordon Brown's statement also promised that Benn would look at what could be done "to relax regulatory requirements on the farming industry". On that score, possibilities being canvassed by the NFU include postponing the proposed changes to the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones regulations, the government to pick up the bill for IPPC costs, pre-movement TB testing and fallen stock collection, and delaying the implementation of animal transport certificates.

NFU president Peter Kendall said the government had a clear moral responsibility to help the livestock industry recover, but that this had to be in the context of a combined effort, in which retailers, processors and not least livestock farmers themselves would have to play a full part.

"The fact that Gordon Brown is prepared to look at options for easing the financial and regulatory burden is encouraging, and we are working with Defra officials and Ministers to put forward a range of measures geared to helping as wide a range of livestock farmers as possible.

"But there is no silver bullet in there, and recovery is going to be a long hard slog, in which retailers and processors will have crucial parts to play, as will farmers themselves.

"The combination of FMD and Bluetongue has shaken the livestock industry to its foundations. What we need to do is to use that shock in a positive way, to stimulate changes in the regulatory framework, the supply chain, and the Government's attitude to the industry that will give livestock farming in Britain a sustainable future.

"If we get it right, then foot and mouth and bluetongue won't be the end of profitable livestock farming, they'll be the beginning of it.

"In the meantime, I would urge all livestock farmers to think carefully about when and how they market their stock, so that we don't make an already very difficult situation even worse."

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