NFUS Believes Bluetongue Explanation Needed

UK - NFU Scotland believes farmers deserve a fuller explanation of the decision-making process following the Defra announcement last week of its intention to roll out its bluetongue (BT) vaccination programme into Northumberland and Cumbria this September.
calendar icon 27 August 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The Union has written to the Secretary of State, Hilary Benn on behalf of concerned members who are worried that the consequence of this move will be significant disruption to the crucial livestock trade between the Border regions at a very important time of year.

NFU Scotland Vice-president Nigel Miller said:

“The advanced announcement that vaccination will not start in Northumberland and Cumbria before September 1 is welcome but it does not alter the serious repercussions for producers both north and south of the Border as a result of the damage to traditional store sales and movements.

“We fully support the efforts being taken by Defra to ensure the programme is a success. In order to maintain this success it is clear that the farming community on both sides of the Border must buy-in to the BT control policy. Without such buy-in it is possible that vaccine uptake may not reach a level sufficient to deliver a protective shield. Before the protection zone is extended we think it is important to put the evidence base for the decision into the public domain. In doing so, several key questions must be answered by Mr Benn.

“What is the rationale for exposing a new area to the risks of importing bluetongue during September when neighbouring disease risk is low and the full benefit of immunity from vaccination will not be seen until early winter when midge activity has fallen? What has been the vaccine uptake in the various zones as they have been rolled out and what is the projected uptake of vaccine in Northumberland and Cumbria?

“Producers will also want to know if there is a positive cost benefit analysis to support the September 1st extension of vaccination to the North of England as opposed to waiting until after the major store sales or the beginning of the vector free period this winter? Placing the evidence base in the public domain will go a long way in ensuring support on both sides of the Border in the face of economic damage to both farms and businesses.

“If however, the evidence supports delaying the planned rollout of vaccine until after the peak trading period, it may facilitate higher uptake of vaccine by farmers and a significant economic dividend to those affected. In this case, the Minister must be willing to reconsider before taking further action.”

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