NBA Not Sharing Defra Thoughts on Animal Health Plan

UK - Government cannot ignore strong farmer objections to disease responsibility and cost sharing.
calendar icon 7 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

The National Beef Association has called on Defra to open its mind to what livestock farmers are saying about disease cost and responsibility sharing (RCS) in consultation responses submitted when the deadline ended only last week.

It is worried that Defra has already decided, despite almost universal farmer condemnation of the move, that RCS is a done deal – and notes that government anticipation of £54 million being raised, to fund the first year of the responsibility transfer process, does not help the industry to feel confident the consultation process has been open, unprejudiced and fair.

“The NBA has been told that Ministers are already committed to the cost sharing process and a draft of the bill that will initiate it, has already been drawn up,” explained Association director, Kim Haywood.

“Furthermore it was told the aim of the recent consultation was to assess the structures to be adopted when responsibility and cost sharing was introduced, even though the majority of the industry don’t want a new animal health body or its associated animal health tax and have pleaded with the government to abandon the project”.

“With the exception of the NFU and the CLA, the main livestock sector representatives are united in their opposition to both cost sharing and the establishment of a new disease control agency - and the strength of this feeling has been made clear to Defra for many, many months.”

“The NBA, and other organisations, fears Defra’s proposals will create more problems than they will solve. They are confident the creation of a new independent body for animal health in England is a dangerous and high risk step into uncharted waters when more positive results, from both government and industry points of view, can be achieved by polishing up the already effective, and much less costly, core stakeholder group system.”

“The NBA therefore urges Defra to accept it is the legitimate role of government to take direct interest, and action, in animal health issues and acknowledge it should not be rushing to pass on responsibility to untried agencies or quangos.”

“It would be utterly irresponsible of Defra to ignore livestock industry certainty that control will have to be wrestled from the new body when exotic disease problems become so dangerous and expensive they can only be managed through direct government control at the highest political level.”

“And it will be a brave Secretary of State who gives the nod to the introduction of such a flawed system – especially when farmers are so opposed to the move and a simpler, less costly, and more effective alternative already lies at hand.”

“Despite clear signals that government has already made up its mind the NBA continues to categorically oppose the introduction of cost sharing through a levy, moves towards compulsory animal health insurance, or the passing over of animal disease control responsibility from government to a so-called independent body and calls on individual farmers to support it,” Ms Haywood added.

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