8 August 2001
Doubt cast over virus valuations

By FWI staff

UNQUALIFIED valuers pushed up foot-and-mouth compensation payments after being brought in by the government, claims the Times.

Officials from the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture failed to spot that close relations were developing between some farmers and valuers, it says.

In some cases, farmers rejected expert valuations in preference of higher estimates by unqualified valuers, nominated by farmers whose stock they valued.

A Cumbrian valuer told the newspaper that a bidding war developed, with farmers demanding to know the price offered before agreeing to place stock.

One local valuation company saw a collapse in demand for its services because word got around that it was not prepared to over-value stock, he claims.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the mounting costs of foot-and-mouth could force Chancellor Gordon Brown to cut spending and raise taxes.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research says the direct cost of the disease will top 3 billion, three times levels of tax cuts announced in the Budget.

While this is lower than government estimates of 3.5bn, the centre estimates that the Treasury could lose 2bn in tax revenue from farming and tourism.

However, these concerns were dismissed by a Treasury spokesman, who insisted that the governments spending programme was on track.

Foot-and-mouth has hit a string of quoted companies in the City, ranging from leisure to leather, betting to burgers, reports the Financial Times.

It says the effects are more protracted and far-reaching than expected and “there is a suspicion that some complainants are more genuine than others”.

In an editorial, the FT accuses the government of encouraging confusion around the costs of the epidemic, including compensation levels.

It points out that the logic behind compensation payments dates back to the Diseases of Animals Act of 1950, which is broadly accepted in the EU.

As farmers must comply with disease control measures, “it has seemed fair that they should be compensated for losses,” it argues.

However, the newspaper believes that the question of farmers insuring themselves against the disease should be reviewed.

A Durham farmer affected by foot-and-mouth has followed the governments calls to diversify — by becoming a stand-up comic.

David Gibson has reached the semi-finals of the So You Think Youre Funny competition for comedy newcomers at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Mr Gibson, who lost 1500 sheep and cattle to the virus, told the Daily Telegraph that he is preparing to harvest winter barley.

Afterwards, he intends to use his free time doing stand-up. “Farming is an uncertain profession at the moment,” he said.

Three new cases of foot-and-mouth were confirmed in North Yorkshire on Tuesday (7 August), taking the UK total to 1931.

  • Financial Times, 08 August, 2001, page 14, 17
  • The Daily Telegraph, 08 August, 2001, page 1, 4
  • the Times, 08 August, 2001, page 1, 2

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