Local farmers betrayed.
LOCAL Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman, Gordon Henderson, has used the visit of a senior shadow minister to attack local Member of Parliament, Derek Wyatt, accusing him of betraying local farmers and compromising public food safety.
Gordon’s attack follows news that Mr Wyatt has been pressing the Government to bring in legislation that would make farmers liable for all the costs involved with any slaughter that arises from future outbreaks of animal diseases, such as the foot and mouth crisis that affected Sheppey farmers in 2001 and the more recent case of bird flu which hit the Bernard Matthews factory in Norfolk.
‘The call by our local MP for farmers to bear the full cost of slaughtering animals caught up in future outbreaks of animal diseases, is not only a betrayal of local farmers, but could seriously compromise public food safety.
‘If implemented, such a policy could push small livestock farmers over the brink into bankruptcy. Faced with financial ruin many farmers would quit the industry, which could have serious long term implications for food supply in this country,
‘More worryingly, some farmers might be tempted to simply not report any outbreak that hits them, which could well affect food safety and public health.
‘It simply cannot be right that farmers who are caught up in an epidemic, such as the foot and mouth disaster, often through no fault of their own, should be forced to pay the full cost of slaughtering their herds at the behest of the Government.’
‘There is an argument for sharing the costs, and I know that the Government is in discussions with the livestock industry to work out a suitable scheme. However, as our Shadow Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, pointed out during his visit this week, the other side of the coin is that the Government has to tighten up border controls to stamp out the importation of diseased food, which is often the cause of outbreaks.
‘In addition the Government must give farmers a greater role in the policy making process. With this in mind, it might have been better if our MP had discussed this matter with the NFU and local farmers, before pressing the Government to penalise farmers in such a draconian way.’
Photo from right to left – Jim Paice MP, John Lewis, Gordon Henderson.
Below is a copy of the leading question asked by Derek Wyatt
Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne & Sheppey, Labour) Hansard source
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2007, Official Report, columns 1320-1W on Bernard Matthews, if he will bring forward amendments to the Animal Health Act 1981 to provide that the food producer is ultimately liable for the costs of any slaughter in the national interest.
Ben Bradshaw (Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Hansard source
The arrangements for animal health and welfare are currently under review.
The Government launched a consultation on 'Responsibility and cost sharing for animal health and welfare: principles' on 11 December 2006, seeking the views of the livestock industry, including businesses upstream and downstream, and consumer organisations.
A UK Responsibility and Cost Sharing Consultative Forum, made up of high-level UK industry representatives, was established in December 2006 to develop structures and mechanisms through which responsibilities and costs could be shared on animal health and welfare. In addition, DEFRA is working with other interested parties and consumers.
The intention is to introduce a Bill to allow the Government to extend coherent cost sharing principles across all animal health and welfare policies. This will provide the responsibility sharing needed to establish a new relationship with the livestock industry and to provide charging powers, such as individual charging or by establishing a levy mechanism for a group of individuals or an entire sector
For more information contact Gordon Henderson on 07866 719923