By Robert Davies Wales correspondent

THE FARMERS Union of Wales is demanding that some farmers should have membership fees for the national fallen stock scheme reimbursed.

 The union says this should occur where the level of service provided by National Fallen Stock Company collectors is unacceptably poor and farmers are waiting much longer than the agreed 48 hours.

 “We have examples of farmers who have waited up to five weeks for dead animals to be collected, and the situation in huge parts of Wales is untenable,” said Gareth Vaughan, FUW president.

 He has written to Michael Seals, chairman of the collection company, calling for membership subscriptions to be repaid to farmers not receiving the service promised.

Mr Vaughan has also demanded that no collection fees are levied when animals are not picked up within 48 hours.

 Both the FUW and NFU Cymru report receiving hundreds of phone calls from angry and worried farmers about the way the scheme is working, especially in north-west Wales. They claim that these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg, and that the scheme is a “shambles”, forcing farmers to start burying stock again, especially newborn lambs.

 But Mr Seals said he was frustrated by the union”s demand and ruled out any reimbursement.

“This latest demand comes soon after a meeting with the FUW in Cardiff at which we acknowledged the particular problem in north Wales, and set out how we were tackling it,” Mr Seals said.

 “The 48-hour collection time is a target agreed with industry stakeholders. I thought the FUW acc<00AD>epted that it is not possible to build a collection infrastructure overnight where none existed before.”

 Only 171 farmers had contacted the company”s helpline to complain about late collection since November, during which time there had been over 60,000 collections, he said.

 He was also able to tell union leaders that Trading Standards officers would take a pragmatic app<00AD>roach when farmers buried stock after trying and failing to get animals collected in reasonable time.

bobdavies@agrinews.fsnet.co.uk