18 January 2002

Farmers owed up to £18m in compensation

By John Burns South-west correspondent

NOT one farmer whose cattle were slaughtered as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak has been compensated for loss of slaughter premium, even where valuers itemised it on valuation lists.

It is estimated that producers could be owed as much as £18m after DEFRA wrote to the NFU in late November to confirm that force majeure applied to all livestock premium schemes except slaughter premium.

NFU livestock adviser Robert Sheasby said: "We are fighting vigorously for it. But first we need written confirmation of what DEFRA was saying at the time.

"For example, some members were told by their Rural Payments Agency office that they could submit slaughter premium claims in the usual way. And the NFU has always advised members to do that as a precaution in case failure to do so was used as an excuse not to pay it.

"But all those have been rejected because of an EU ruling that slaughter premium is only payable on cattle killed in approved abattoirs and force majeure does not apply."

Whether valuations should account for slaughter premium separately is adding to the confusion.

Between Mar 22 and July 29 farmers could opt for standard rate valuation, which included an allowance for slaughter premium, or individual valuation based on market value, where valuers were asked to show the slaughter premium element separately.

Jeremy Moody, of the Central Association of Agricul-tural Valuers, said: "This is a very messy area. MAFF/ DEFRA put out various guides for valuers during the course of the outbreak.

"Where slaughter premium is not itemised in the valuation it is difficult to prove whether it was included in the per head value."

Class action

A group of claimants have submitted an appeal to an arbitrator on the grounds that it was not included. If that move fails the next step could be a class action in the courts," says Mr Moody.

A DEFRA spokeswoman said this week that the department wanted to treat farmers fairly. "We recognise there is an issue, we want to address it and resolve it fairly. Obviously resources have been concentrated on eradicating the disease. Now that has been achieved we can concentrate on mopping up outstanding matters."

Neil Parish, Conservative spokesman on agriculture in the European Parliament, said he would take up the issue with farm commissioner Franz Fischler and hoped the UK government would also lobby hard. &#42