Payments not rip-off, say farmers

Oct 23 2002

The Western Mail


AGRICULTURAL leaders in Wales have hit out at suggestions that compensation payments to farmers during last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic were a rip-off of taxpayers' money and have criticised future plans to reduce the amount of compensation paid.

A leaked report says farmers who lose animals in any future dis-ease outbreak will not receive full compensation, as the Government plans to close loopholes that allowed so-called rip-offs from the taxpayer during last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic.

These details are set out in a draft report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in response to official inquiry reports into the disease due to be published in December.

Alun Morris of the Farmers Union of Wales said it was not the fault of the farmers, "Basically it was not down to the farmers, and at the end of the day they were only paid what they were due.

"People have to realise that it is not just a question of being paid compensation for the animal, as the farmer also loses his ability to make money from the animal slaughtered and has re-stocking costs on top."

During the outbreak farmers were allowed to shop around for the best valuations for animals facing slaughter.

In future this right for individual farm assessments will end and farmers will be forced to accept standard payments.

Farmers will also have to take insurance cover or pay an animal disease levy to cover half the costs of dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as foot-and-mouth.

"Why should farmers be forced to indemnify the Government from the costs of a further epidemic when it is government policy that has caused the problem in the first place?" said Mr Morris.

"It is almost certain that foot-and-mouth disease was brought in from abroad and until the Government puts a stop to the importation of illegal meat they should have to bear the consequences, and not the farmer."

"As far as insurance is concerned, most of the companies that have been approached are not very keen about this as they feel there is too great a risk of the disease being brought back in again."