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Defra cost sharing decision 'passes the buck' to farmers-Farron

March 31, 2009 3:46 PM

Government plans to charge livestock farmers for dealing with animal disease will heap more financial pressure on farmers according to Liberal Democrat Defra Spokesperson Tim Farron, who has expressed his dismay at yesterday's announcement which would see livestock farmers pay an annual levy to fund the cost of preparing for disease outbreaks.

At the moment it costs the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) £44 million every year to prevent animal disease and prepare for outbreaks. However, a new consultation suggests farmers pay half through a new tax on livestock. The £22m would be raised by putting a levy on different animals, from £4.80 for a dairy cow to 4p for a chicken.

Mr Farron has condemned the Government's decision to "pass the buck" on to farmers as reckless and has warned that further attempts to increase industry contributions for disease prevention will only cause further damage to the industry.

Figures uncovered by Mr Farron have revealed the devastating impact of the extensive cost sharing measures already in place within the meat industry. Huge increases in cost have meant over 140 abattoirs have been forced to close down within the last five years. A series of parliamentary questions revealed that the industry costs for disease prevention had risen by over 75% to over £55million since 1997.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"Quite frankly I think it's disgraceful that Defra is trying to pass the buck to farmers, by forcing them to pay a further £22million in addition to the mountain of the other costs they are already required to pay.

"I'm amazed that Ministers have the audacity to even suggest that livestock farmers should pay these increased costs, especially since the 2007 Foot and Mouth outbreak clearly came from a Government licensed premises.

"Everyone within the farming industry understands the need to protect public health. But in the current economic climate there can be no justification for shifting the cost to livestock farmers.

"The cost of employing an on-site veterinarian, along with the increased number of inspections, has meant over 140 abattoirs have already closed since 2004. I'm concerned that these new rules will lead to the closure of far more abattoirs-particularly in remote areas- and will also significantly undermine the Government's ability to respond to further disease outbreaks when they occur."

1. Parliamentary question tabled by Tim Farron MP http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2009-02-24d.257421.h&s=Tim+Farron+AND+abattoirs#g257421.q0

2. Parliamentary question tabled by Tim Farron MP http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2009-02-23d.257424.h&s=Tim+Farron+AND+abattoirs#g257424.q0