22 March 2002

£50m for farm insurance?

TREASURY officials have been asked to come up with a lump sum – possibly £50m – to help underwrite an insurance scheme for farmers to take out cover against outbreaks of diseases such as foot-and-mouth.

Ministers are keen to avoid a repeat of the £1bn compensation bill for the 2001 F&M outbreak and are looking for ways to pass on the costs of controlling diseases such as F&M and TB to the farming industry.

Proposals include sharing the risks of a future outbreak between farmers and the insurance industry. It has been suggested farmers should pay a levy into an insurance pot while private insurance firms also offer cover. &#42

DEFRA has now put the ideas to the Treasury and asked for the cash as part of the summer spending review. It has refused to confirm how much it has asked for.

But the National Beef Association has slammed the whole concept and said now is not the time to introduce such a scheme. The government should instead be investing in making sure diseases cant get into the country in the first place.

Robert Robinson, NBA chairman, said: "If it feels there is a danger of the UK being hit by a new epidemic it should be setting out to make sure a fresh virus invasion can be repelled rather than organise ways of putting the cost of its arrival on farmers instead of itself."