6 September 2002

Cumbria inquiry hope

The farming community in

north-west England

continues to pick up

the pieces after foot-and-

mouth disease.

Jeremy Hunt takes a look

at how producers in the

region are facing up

to the future

NORTH-WEST farmers hope the Cumbria foot-and-mouth disease inquiry report will put further pressure on government to act to avoid a repeat of the 2001 epidemic.

Almost a year since the last confirmed case, the countys long-awaited 100-page foot-and-mouth report will be published today Fri, Sept 6.

It is the last in a series of reports to be produced on foot-and-mouth but is significant because Cumbria was the region worst hit by the disease. The county suffered 893 out of the countrys 2030 confirmed disease cases.

The reports recommendations are expected to cover ways to control the disease, strategies to improve communication and measures to help recovery after an outbreak.

It is expected to build on the governments Lessons to be Learned report into the handling of F&M which was published in July. The Cumbria report has been written after public meetings, written submissions and a series of hearings in May.

NFU livestock committee chairman Les Armstrong, who gave evidence and had his own stock culled during the epidemic, said the report added weight to the conclusions that have already been drawn.

"What really matters about this is what the government does about it," he said.

"If it helps to keep pressure up on government, then that is good. We may be free of the disease but we shouldnt forget what happened."

Feelings still run deep in the region about the way the disease was handled. Charlotte Thexton of Sayles Farm, Lowick Bridge who gave evidence at a public meeting in Ulverston said she felt farmers were treated very badly.

Much was made of the problems of the tourism industry but at least things were getting back to normal for people with hotels, said Mrs Thexton.

"They are in business this year but we have to start from scratch again."

Moira Fisher, who farms at Smalmstown Farm, Longtown and gave evidence to a public meeting, said she hoped the report would help to get animal movement restrictions lifted.

Mrs Fisher said she and her husband Robin also hoped it would force the government to bring in legislation so the disease could not enter Britain again. For the Fishers the report will be particularly timely – it is published on the same day they hope to restart milking.

Counties Cumbria, Lancs, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Land area Total land area of 0.89m ha (2.2m acres). Over 65% is grassland excluding rough grazing

Farm numbers 21,049 holdings employ a labour force of 42,413. Over 63% of the land is owner-occupied.

Cattle and calf population 833,432 – over 14% of the English national herd. Total dairy numbers 289,194 and total beef numbers 67,848.

Sheep and lamb population 2,501,110; breeding flock of 1,195,332.

Pigs and poultry Total pig breeding herd is 18,047; poultry breeding flock of 616,280.

Arable area Cropped and fallow land accounts for 113,525ha (280,520 acres). Cereals are grown on 65% of this area.

Source: DEFRA June 2001 Census.