FARMERS PLAN TO LEAVE ENGLAND WHILE GOVERNMENT RELAXES

With much of the Government out of the country on holiday, Cumbrian farmers plan to leave the country themselves, suggesting that the county of Cumbria becomes part of Scotland.

But Why?

Jim Webster farms in Cumbria. He is also Chairman of the Cumbria Branch of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA). Whilst the government is in recess and the Prime Minister holidays in France, Jim Webster has a cunning plan.

Here he explains.....

"Back in April I wrote 'One problem with this country is the way that once the bureaucracy has got its claws into you, it doesn’t let go until you break its fingers or pry them off using tyre levers.' At a recent Stakeholders meeting I was again proved right. The minister and the rest of DEFRA have stubbornly refused to budge on the Twenty Day Rule.

"For new readers I better explain. The Twenty Day Rule means, that with a handful of very minor exceptions, if an animal comes onto your farm from elsewhere, you are 'locked down' for twenty days, unable to sell anything other than by dead weight. This restriction was a problem during the FMD outbreak but we grinned and bore it because it was just one more thing we had to do to beat the virus.

"We no longer have the virus, indeed it is only a couple of months to the first anniversary of the last case. Yet we still have a regulation in place that is crippling the industry and destroying auction marts and many other businesses related to the livestock sector.

"Let us look at this dispassionately. The EU has fifteen national State Veterinary Services. During the Foot and Mouth outbreak fourteen of these state veterinary services acted with speed and professionalism, stamping out or preventing the disease in their countries. One of the fifteen did not. After the outbreak, fourteen of these state veterinary services see no reason at all for a twenty day rule. One of the fifteen does. Is this lone voice a SVS that showed itself a fine example of efficiency during the outbreak, an exemplar that others will follow, proud to be allowed to tread in the same footsteps?

"No, it is the same SVS that was panned by three independent reports. In fact such is the high esteem in which it is held that even the Scots do not take any notice of it and run their own far superior version of the twenty day rule designed to be both workable and pragmatic.

" At the Stakeholder meeting that I mentioned, while we are still stuck with the Twenty Day rule, as a special concession, those attending auction marts will not have to wear waterproofs. Well I hate to be the one to break it to the minister but for quite some time before it occurred to him to make this announcement even his own employees were not wearing their waterproofs because it was far too hot and they took the eminently sensible decision that there was far more risk of heat stroke than spreading fmd. Now we have had a ministerial announcement tinkering with the twenty day rule which has still not given us the flexibility of our Scottish neighbours. At the very least we should have had the 20 day rule replaced with a six day rule or the Scottish system as a step back to the normality enjoyed by the rest of the EU.

"Now I feel genuinely sorry for our local DEFRA people. A lot of them went through hell last year, and this year, numbers cut back to the bone, ministry vets are struggling to cope with a backlog of TB tests. These people won many friends on an individual level last year, and now, because of the ineptitude with which their London based superiors are acting, they will doubtless get the blame. It is not their fault, trapped by a system where their actions are more and more controlled from above.

"In spite of this, we cannot go on like this. It is unthinkable that we sit back and watch our industry and many related industries be destroyed by bad regulation imposed by a body of somewhat less than proven competence.

"Fortunately here in Cumbria we have an option. A few miles north there is a country running a far more rational system. A country that is trying to ensure that agriculture can pick up the pieces and move forward. I am talking about Scotland. Hence the CLA in Cumbria is now wondering whether to request that Cumbria move speedily to come under Scotland and we have SEERAD rather than DEFRA. At least that way we have some hope for the future."

For further information contact:

Jim Webster, Chairman CLA Cumbria Tel: 01229 821561

 Douglas Chalmers, Regional Director Tel: 01524 782209 Mob: 07764 588 475

Mike Ashton, Regional PR & Communications Adviser Tel: 01524 782209 Mob:07753 574 675