The NFU has vowed to fight DEFRA’s responsibility and cost-sharing plans, despite conceding English livestock producers will have to accept more responsibility for animal health in future.

NFU president Peter Kendall said proposals released by DEFRA last month to introduce an animal health body, a compulsory insurance scheme and a levy to cover the £22m annual cost of disease surveillance were inconsistent and irrational.

“This is one of the most ill-thought out consultations I’ve ever read,” he told the NFU Council meeting in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire this week (21 April).

“The costs are based on the value of output and not disease risk so there is a risk of pitting sectors against each other.”

Mr Kendall said the NFU was also concerned that the industry might have to bear the brunt of an outbreak of a disease such as foot-and-mouth.

This could see farmers having to pay £450 million of a £500 million outbreak. There was also concern that some producers would not be able to get insurance cover if commercial insurers were expected to cover the risk.

But Mr Kendall said that livestock producers have to accept there will be some cost sharing in the future.

“The government is looking to cut back on spending with at least £15 billion of cuts across departments already earmarked,” he said.

“The European Commission also expects cost sharing schemes to be in place by 2012 and there are no indications that opposition parties wouldn’t introduce cost sharing measures.”

The NFU is running a series of 15 meetings on responsibility and cost sharing over the next few weeks and will propose alternatives to the DEFRA consultation by its closing date on the 30 June.