The farming industry will have to pick up the bill for future badger culls, DEFRA minister George Eustice has warned at the 2014 NFU Conference.
The minister’s comment came in response to a challenge by Devon farmer David Horton over the government’s plans on the ‘funding model’ for badger culling.
Farmers would not “wear it’ if they were asked to foot the bill for culling, said Mr Horton during a question and answer session at the two day event.
“We need government money. Twenty years of government procrastination have got us to this position and we need government money to pay for it.”
Mr Eustice confirmed discussions were underway about future funding models, but the government was clear that it needed to be “industry-funded”.
The government was footing the bill for research, monitoring and policing, he pointed out. “We are doing our bit. We need the industry to do its bit too. The industry has a role too.”
Responding to farmer comments about the difficulty of complying with TB movement restrictions, Mr Eustice again said farmers had to do their bit.
“We have to recognise that cattle movements also contribute to the spread of TB and just as we are taking tough decisions on badger culling we have to take tough decisions on cattle movements.”
More on this: Bovine TB and the badger cull
Mr Eustice also spoke of the need to evolve the badger culling policy into something that was more “normalised”.
The aim was to get to a point where badger culling was seen as one of the tools used to control TB in the way same way that culling cattle was, he said.
During his main speech to conference, Mr Eustice paid tribute to all those involved in the pilot culls who had often faced intimidation and harassment.
“We have learned many things from our experiences last summer, so it’s important that we give due consideration to the Independent Expert Panel’s report before making a decision on culling in new areas,” he said.
“But without prejudging this decision, Natural England has encouraged anyone interested in a badger control licence to start planning ahead and make an expression of interest.”
It is understood that 32 areas have already put in an expression of interest to Natural England to carry out a badger cull.
The industry is still waiting for the findings of the Independent Expert Panel, which was set up to assess the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The report, which will inform DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson’s decision over whether culling can be rolled out further, is now expected in March.