Walker fury over FMD levy plan
PG WODEHOUSE said there was no mistaking the difference between a
Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
Step forward Jim
Walker, president of NFU Scotland, yesterday with messages for government
which had nothing to do with the season of goodwill or the belief that it
is better to give than to receive.
For a start, farmers don’t want
to give towards a compensation fund for any future livestock disease
outbreak, a levy which the Treasury wants after the foot-and-mouth
epidemic cost it an estimated £8 billion.
The department of
environment, food and rural affairs proposal is bargain basement
compensation, for example a flat rate of £300 for cattle regardless of
breed, pedigree or market value, of which the farmers’ levy would pay
Walker told journalists that farmers had learned the lessons
of foot-and-mouth. They stuck to the 20 day movement rule, took
bio-security precautions and had full traceability for sheep.
went on: "And what have government done? They now have three sniffer dogs
to cover all airports to detect illegal meat instead of one and in the 27
UK airports I have been through in the past year, I have seen three
posters warning passengers about illegal meat.
"They say that
Customs & Excise is now in charge of illegal meat detection. Customs
& Excise tell me they have not the resources. Yet government tell
farmers we’ll have to pay a compensation fund levy and insure - tell me
one insurance company which will touch foot-and-mouth cover with a
Advised that this was an interesting, but elderly,
story, Walker said: "It might have been reported before. But many people
still don’t realise what a disaster it would be for farming. A disease
outbreak on DEFRA’s terms could wipe out many farmers. Do farmers realise
that? Do their bankers realise that? Do they realise that DEFRA has agreed
to introduce it within two years?"
The Scottish Executive must not
accept such a levy, he said. In its response to FMD the Executive had
pointed out that animal health is a devolved matter and Ross Finnie,
minister for rural development, was on record as saying he opposed a levy
or insurance. Walker said: "We must have a Scottish decision on this."
There were also warnings about a bleak future for pigs - two more
farmers, with a total of 1,400 breeding sows, went out of business this
month, taking the Scottish sow herd to fewer than 50,000 and producers to
barely 200 - cereals and milk with only beef and sheep producers having a
It made the case for the NFU even stronger, said
Walker. Sectoral organisations such as those for beef and sheep and,
recently, malting barley growers in England made a contribution.
"But politicians only listen to an organisation which can talk of
the wider economy. That’s us."