UFU Vow of Silence Until Government Breaks Deadlock

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Ulster Farmers’ Union, NI Meat Exporters Association, NIAPA and the NI Poultry Federation have said they will not re-engage with the Department of Agriculture on Animal Health Responsibility and Cost Sharing, until Government enters into a real debate about the entire future of regulation and costs, under new terms of reference.
calendar icon 2 September 2008
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The industry organisations say they had participated in good faith with DARD in a working group on sharing responsibility and cost in animal health and welfare. This was to explore how industry and Government might collaborate in sharing responsibility for the efficient functioning and regulation of the industry and how to minimise Government’s costs.

"The Northern Ireland food industry is committed to seeking the maximum cost efficiency at all levels of the chain."
UFU President Graham Furey

UFU President Graham Furey said; “During the negotiations the industry sought commitment from Government in terms of sharing responsibility. Regrettably, in this context Government has so far been found seriously wanting. Accordingly, the producer and processor representatives of the industry have joined with UFU in no longer wishing to engage with this working group, under the previous terms of reference”.

“The industry is however prepared to engage with Government in a ‘real’ debate on the entire future regulation and its cost, if appropriate revised terms of reference can be agreed. The Northern Ireland food industry is committed to seeking the maximum cost efficiency at all levels of the chain. It does not have the luxury of passing on uncontrolled costs to its customer base, or to consumers in general. We are seeking an engagement with Government that would focus on cost efficiencies, which we believe can be achieved by Government, and industry, working together”.

The revised terms of reference proposed by the UFU, NIMEA, NIAPA and the NIPF include:

  1. DARD agrees to embrace and implement the Varney report’s recommendation on the delivery of services by Government, i.e. “wherever possible Government should privatise the delivery of services.”

  2. DARD accepts the fundamental logic that any attempt to charge for a service delivered by Government is in effect double taxation. If Government deems it necessary in the public interest that its employees are the only people appropriate to deliver a service, then the exchequer should meet the cost in full. If industry is required to engage a particular Government service, it should have the right to engage the most cost efficient service provider it can find or at least be guaranteed that only properly market tested costs should be charged.

  3. DARD should acknowledge more fully the principle that the polluter pays. For example where a farmer or factory pollutes a waterway they are responsible for making good the damage caused. Similarly Government need to assume similar responsibility or hold the appropriate people to account where disease has occurred through no fault of either farmers or factories. For example last years FMD outbreak was caused by failures at a Government laboratory.

  4. In regard to diseases that are already prevalent within Northern Ireland, we seek a clear commitment to take all necessary steps to eradicate such diseases from our livestock, and where appropriate from our wildlife population.

  5. Whilst Meat Inspection and Veterinary charges are outside the scope of this consultation, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has indicated its desire to seek ‘full cost recovery’ in these areas. As such, the industry seeks a clear indication that the Varney principles will be equally applied.

  6. DARD agrees to provide a clear demonstration of the new partnership approach to ‘responsibility sharing’ before ‘cost sharing’ is to be considered e.g. the current core TB stakeholder group involving stakeholders and DARD is to report by the end of 2008.

  7. DARD will take account of the existing ‘contribution’ already being made by the industry and the ‘affordability’ of any cost sharing proposals.

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