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Animal health fees only about money – TFA

[Wednesday 2 December 2009]

Government proposals to make livestock farmers pay for new veterinary health measures is more about money than animal welfare, the Tenant Farmers’ Association claims.

The association says it was confirmed by a DEFRA Minister that the primary purpose behind the Government’s plan to create an Independent Body for Animal Health is to take more money from the livestock industry, claims a statement issued yesterday.

In a meeting with Junior DEFRA Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP attended by the TFA and the National Beef Association on Monday, the Minister repeatedly defended the Government’s policy on the grounds that he expected the industry to pay more for animal health policy.

Said TFA National Chairman Greg Bliss said “This meeting followed up a letter written in June to DEFRA Secretary of State Hilary Benn by six Industry organisations opposing the Government’s plans for the independent body and supporting the current system of industry engagement through core disease control and stakeholder groups.

“We challenged the Minister to identify what extra benefit will be produced by a move to an independent body. He failed to identify any benefits beyond the Government’s ability to get the industry to take over some of the Government’s costs for running animal health.”

Farmers view these new proposals as yet another attack on their industry by an urban-based Labour Party which has little understanding of rural needs and one is still deeply wounded by its catastrophic handling of the foot and mouth crisis eight years ago.

This bitterness is exacerbated by the fact that many believe foot and mouth came into this country because of lack of proper import controls on meat products from South America – a Government responsibility – and there was the almost laughable situation that the last outbreak of the disease came from leaking sewers at a Government-owned veterinary research centre.

Added to this resentment is the fact that DEFRA has persistently refused to create a supermarket Ombudsman to ensure that the major food retailers give the producers a fair price.

When all these complaints are joined by what is seen as a new stealth tax, it makes for the most unhappy relationship between Government and agriculture since the industry was driven to almost total collapse in the 1930s – a neglect which took the nation to the verge of starvation in World War 11.

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