NFU starts big push on 20-day standstill

Jan 9 2003

By Anna Lognonne


Farming groups are stepping up their calls to the Government to scrap the controversial 20-day standstill rule.

National Farmers' Union members will tomorrow be handing in letters to Defra at animal health offices across the country, calling for an end to the unpopular rule.

It will coincide with a series of farmers' demonstrations tomorrow at Defra offices across the country.

Meanwhile, the National Beef Association has been sending letters to the media, highlighting its fears that biosecurity is being compromised because farmers, finding the rules impossible to abide by, are having to move animals illegally.

The NFU letters will explain the steps taken by the livestock industry to reduce disease risk and the impact of the animal movement regime, which remains in force nearly 16 months after the end of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Farmers from the North-East and Yorkshire will gather outside the animal health offices in both Newcastle and Leeds before meeting the Government's divisional veterinary managers there.

Cumbrian farmers will demonstrate at Rose Hill, Carlisle.

NFU Cumbria County Chairman Will Cockbain said: "The livestock industry has taken significant steps to tackle the issue of disease risk.

"It is now important that Defra recognises this and works with the industry to introduce more realistic and appropriate measures that are capable of improving biosecurity on a broad front.

"The need for controls has been accepted but the industry can no longer afford to be regulated by the lowest common denominator."

NFU Northumberland chairman Stoker Frater, from Alnwick, said: "These restrictions have also imposed additional expense on the auction marts because they now have to hold separate slaughter markets. This disadvantages not only the markets, but also farmers."

NBA chief executive Robert Foster, from Northumberland, said: "The NBA feels that non-compliance levels are likely to increase through 2003 unless the current 20-day movement rules are radically amended and that everyone ... should therefore strive to introduce more sympathetic legislation which eliminates the willingness to undertake illegal activity and re-establishes confidence in movement records.

"In our view this means either shortening the standstill period to six days with less exemptions or introducing isolation regulations capable of being adopted by every farm which allow all other animals on the holding to be sold regardless of when any incoming animal arrived."

Since the FMD epidemic in 2001 the industry has adopted rigid biosecurity controls at livestock markets, vehicle cleansing and disinfection rules, general licensing of livestock movements, the recording of sheep movements and a ban on swill feeding. The NFU says any movement controls must be proportionate to risk, compatible with trading conditions, easily understood, supported by producers and capable of being effectively enforced.

It has always advocated that future controls must be based on biosecurity - at a national and international level in respect of controls on imports of meat and meat products and at a farm level, looking at specific measures to protect the holding.

Mr Cockbain said: "If we embrace the measures adopted by the industry since February 2001 and build on the principles of biosecurity then there is absolutely no need for a whole farm standstill - of any length."

He said the NFU would continue its dialogue with Defra to get a practical change to the current animal movement regime in time for the spring.