AND MOUTH INSURANCE FEARS
Westcountry farmers are bracing
themselves for the possibility of having to
pay new disease insurance
premiums to cover the cost of a future foot and
mouth outbreak, under
Government plans that are expected to be announced
Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett is due to make a statement to
outlining the Government's formal response to the "Lessons Learned"
into last year's foot and mouth disaster.
Among the proposals
she is expected to put forward are plans to force
farmers to share the cost
of any serious disease outbreak in the future,
either through a private
insurance scheme or a disease levy.
Last year's disaster cost the
taxpayer a total of £2.7 billion - much of it
wasted, according to the
National Audit Office. The Treasury is determined
that the Government should
not carry the full cost of any future outbreak.
But there are concerns
within the insurance industry about both the scale of
the risk and the
ability of farmers to pay the premiums needed to cover it
and it is likely
that the Government will have to underwrite at least half
of the cost of any
future outbreak. Ian Johnson, South West spokesman for
the National Farmers'
Union, said farmers could ill afford another hefty
bill at a time of
continuing economic crisis in agriculture.
He said the Government should
instead concentrate its efforts on tightening
controls on illegal imports
which are thought to have been the source of the
"It would be extremely unreasonable for the Government to shift
responsibility on to the backs of others. I don't think farmers could
it and I am not even sure that insurers would underwrite it, given
that it is
well known how wide open we still are to these things coming
Any move to introduce compulsory insurance would require
and it is not known whether there will be room in the
session, which is due to be announced in the Queen's Speech
month. Mrs Beckett is also expected to announce a range of
control costs in any future outbreak, such as fixed fees for
procurement training for an emergency team of
She will confirm that the Government will introduce an
movement ban once a case of foot and mouth is confirmed and
that the Army
will be notified. She will also confirm that the damaging
blanket closure of
footpaths seen last year will not be repeated, with only
footpaths in the
immediate vicinity of infected farms shut
Another controversial measure is the electronic tagging of all
sheep to make
it easier to trace sheep movements.
Mrs Beckett will
also confirm that a culling strategy - including some
contiguous culling -
will remain at the heart of disease control strategy.
vaccination is also likely to be brought forward as a "front
line" weapon in
any future outbreak.