Cattlemen slam compensation scheme plans:By Andrew Watts

PLANS TO introduce a new compensation regime for cattle affected by bovine TB, brucellosis, BSE and Enzootic Bovine Leukosis have been heavily criticised by farm leaders.

The proposed system, due to be introduced in early 2005, will give fixed values for all cattle categories, including different sorts of pedigree animals.

The system will use a simple table placing the animal in one of 29 categories based on age, sex, sector (dairy or beef) and pedigree status.

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, branded the proposals in their current form “a total no-brainer”.

“These proposals put DEFRA in a position where it can’t fulfil its legal obligation to give fair compensation,” he said.

“We need a system that gives the industry the confidence that it is not being ripped off and one where DEFRA feels it is not over-compensating farmers.”

NFU livestock board chairman Richard Haddock said the proposals were an ill-thought-out knee jerk reaction by DEFRA because it had come under pressure from the National Audit Office.

“They are bringing the industry to its knees. TB is the biggest problem affecting the livestock industry in the UK, but the government is putting all the pressure and financial burden on farmers without taking action to tackle the issue,” he said.

Mr Haddock added that he wanted the NFU to take tougher action against the government by taking it to the European Court because it was failing to tackle the issue of TB in badgers.

The Farmers Union of Wales defended the current system of payments describing it as the only fair method to compensate an owner when faced with mandatory slaughter.

 “We are disappointed that this route has been chosen,” said a spokesman. “We have always maintained that the only fair way to value animals for compulsory purchase is by independent valuation.”

 A similar reaction came from NFU Scotland, which said it felt other issues should be considered, such as the farm’s assurance scheme status.

 “While we support the principle of a simplified regime, the experiences of F&M in 2001 showed that, with proper management, prompt valuation on an individual basis followed by slaughter can be achieved,” said NFUS vice president David Mitchell.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw defended the government’s plans.

 “We need to take action to ensure we have a system that provides consistent and fair compensation for farmers, supports disease control measures and protects the taxpayer.” More details, p31.