The NFU and the Livestock Auctioneers Association detailed their concerns over the introduction of pre-movement testing for bovine tuberculosis in a letter presented to DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett at the NFU’s annual conference in Birmingham.

The document said the two groups welcomed the delay in the introduction of pre-movement testing, but that it should be three months, rather than five weeks, to allow for proper consultation.

“We would argue that putting off its introduction until late March is still insufficient to address our concerns and clarify guidance for the industry.”

The letter said the two organisations wanted the government to accept that it should bear the costs of pre-movement testing rather than farmers.

It pointed out that in the week before testing was due to be introduced, farmers in the south west were having to pay £20 a head for a test, compared with the £9 estimated by DEFRA.

The primary concern is that pre-movement testing will be imposed on the industry in advance of any action to eradicate bovine TB in wildlife, said the letter.

“We are convinced that all this will serve to do is burden farmers with extra costs and bureaucracy, while at the same time doing little to really address the disease problem as the wildlife disease reservoir remains untouched.”

During her speech to the conference, Mrs Beckett said she took the decision to delay pre-movement testing to allow an independent adviser to carry out a rapid survey of veterinary capacity and preparedness to deliver the system.

However, she stressed, the policy itself was not under review.

But she was heckled by a delegate when she told the audience that it was in their own interests to co-operate with the policy of pre-movement testing.

“You have also got to show co-operation,” shouted a producer from the 800-strong audience.

Mrs Beckett said the consultation on badger culling would run until 10 March.

fwnews@rbi.co.uk