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Industry Reactions To Draft Animal Health Bill

28 January 2010
National Farmers Union

UK - The National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the Royal Association For British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) both remain opposed to any costs being transferred to livestock farmers for dealing with animal disease outbreaks after the publication of the new draft Animal Health Bill.

RABDF has welcomed the Secretary of State’s first reading of the draft Animal Health Bill which is set to introduce a new non-departmental public body, the Animal Health Organisation (AHO). While the association considers the AHO to be a step in the right direction for animal health policy in England and Wales, it has called for further details to be resolved before the livestock industry is in a position to give the proposals full backing.

The NFU called for an independent body for Animal Health and believes the proposed body is a positive step forward. However, the devil is in the detail and we need to scrutinise the draft Bill very closely to ensure that the proposed body meets the needs of livestock farmers.

“The draft Bill is just that; it merely outlines the general purpose of the new AHO and does not go into specific details,” commented RABDF chairman, Lyndon Edwards. “The idea of bio-security levels being linked to compensation is a sensible approach to achieving a long term healthy livestock population. However, the document fails to mention animal welfare, an issue that is inextricably linked to animal health, and one we would appeal to government to consider progressing any further with the Bill.

The Bill extremely concerns the NFU with its lack of detail about potential cost-sharing; it says this element will be introduced in a Finance Bill sometime in the future.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: "We have lobbied for some time on this issue and consulted our members; we remain completely opposed to any cost burden being passed on to livestock farmers, particularly as we believe there are genuine savings to be made within Defra's current Animal Health budget.

"Livestock farmers are already paying their fair share; they contribute significantly to the overall cost of animal health and welfare and adhere to strict biosecurity on farm. Reducing or removing compensation for farms deemed to have failed relative requirements is another major area of concern for us. While this may sound reasonable to some, our fear is that it will be impossible to develop a fair and proportionate system which takes into account individual farming businesses and the variety of livestock kept and different types and strains for diseases. Government also needs to be clearer about how it will increase protection to the industry from exotic diseases entering the country," added Mr Kendall. 

“As far as cost sharing is concerned, then we welcome Defra abandoning its proposals for insurance premiums but continue to totally oppose the introduction of individual animal levies. It is crucial that the funding mechanisms do not negatively impact on farmers; we simply cannot accept further farmer costs as part of government’s cost saving measures when in fact placing emphasis on measures such as bio-security will have a cost in itself," said Mr Edwards.

“We would also urge the Responsibility and Cost Sharing Group chaired by Rosemary Radcliffe to give further thought to a number of issues before the legislative process is progressed. The draft document contains some very shady areas, for example it is unclear as yet whether companion animals and horses will come under the scope of the body and this will ultimately affect how the organisation operates.”

He adds: “Until we receive more details on Defra’s proposals for responsibility and cost sharing, and in particular the funding and scope of the AHO body, then the jury remains out.”

The NFU will also be seeking clarification on why the Government now feels that it needs to introduce cost sharing measures through a Finance Bill and will maintain their fundamental opposition to such a move.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

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