“The cost sharing ‘partnership’ in animal health and welfare between British agriculture and government is, I believe, only a step forward if it is really an equal partnership, not an opportunity for government to shirk it’s responsibility for national food safety,” writes Wiltshire farmer Tim Mallett.

“If we take the last two major disease outbreaks, BSE and foot-and-mouth, for British agriculture to share the cost burden, which was enormous, we would have to have had control of the cause. In the case of BSE this would be the decision to reduce the minimum temperature animal proteins were rendered at. With foot-and-mouth it was the import of contaminated meat.

“If we were equal partners with government, we would need to reduce the risk of avian flu with a ban on the import of poultry meat from at-risk countries.

“Add that to the obvious need to ban imports of beef from countries at risk to both BSE and foot-and-mouth, and control of TB, for which some insist we have to cull badgers. Can you really see British agriculture being allowed to control its own disease risks? We would be accused of protectionism. So how can we carry the cost?

“Peter Kendall says both parties have to go into the debate with a ‘can do’ attitude. I think we are at risk of ‘being done’.”

What do you think? Can DEFRA be trusted to give farmers a real say in animal health and welfare policy? Have you say in our forum debate.