F&M row grows as valuation scrapped
By Alistair Driver
and Robert Davies
THE row over foot-and-mouth compensation paid to farmers has intensified after the government scrapped the standard valuations for culled animals.
The move was made amid accusations that farmers and valuers had been colluding to inflate artificially compensation payments. "We are alert to the possibility of excessive claims from farmers and/or valuers," a DEFRA spokeswoman said.
Valuations of culled livestock will now be made by an independent valuer appointed by DEFRA. Animal health minister Elliot Morley said the rates, introduced in March to speed up the cull, were set generously.
"In the event less than 10% of farmers used this facility and the rate had the effect of putting in place minimum prices," he said.
The move angered farmers, already furious at the recent suspension of secondary cleaning and disinfection on farms and cuts in payments under the welfare disposal scheme.
The move to halt farm clean-ups was also backed by allegations that unscrupulous farmers and contractors were ripping off the government. New rules designed to curb excess claims were due to be announced at the end of this week.
The NFU responded by attacking the decision to remove the standard valuations of culled animals, claiming they should have been retained until the crisis was over.
NFU deputy president, Tim Bennett, said: "Every farmer should be treated equally and no one disadvantaged when they go to bid for replacement livestock."
The union said it would continue to fight for standard payments to be back-dated to those farmers whose animals were culled before they were introduced.
Farmers Union of Wales president, Bob Parry, said farmers were now questioning the governments commitment to eliminating the disease. "The government is certainly giving the impression that saving a few £s here and there is more important than eradicating this vicious virus."
He said farmers who suffer future outbreaks were being told to take less compensation than was paid out to other farmers. "This is grossly unfair."
The problems were illustrated in the Brecon Beacons where farmers delayed the cull of their sheep by arguing over valuations. They demanded extra money for the years of breeding that had produced their hefted sheep. One farmer reportedly demanded over £1000 a ewe, a total of £1m, for his flock.
"He did not get that much, but he and the others managed to get substantial valuations, and rightly so," said an FUW spokesman. *