14 June 2001
Farmers will not rule – Beckett

By Donald MacPhail

MARGARET BECKETT has signalled that farmers concerns will not be allowed to dominate her new vision for rural Britain.

In her first statement on foot-and-mouth, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the virus affected all the countryside.

“The impact of foot-and-mouth has not just been on the agricultural community. It has had major effects on other sectors of the rural community.

“So much depends on ending the disease, not only for the farming industry in terms of resumption of normal trade, including exports, but for all parts of the rural economy.”

Farming is brought together with food, rural development and environmental policy in the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Although Mrs Beckett will represent the UK at European Union Farm Council meetings, Lord Whitty has been named as food and farming minister.

Elliot Morley, previously a junior minister at the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture is minister for animal health, fisheries and sustainable development.

Mrs Becketts stance is in line with DEFRA aims to revitalise the whole rural economy. Many saw the Ministry of Agriculture as too partisan towards farming.

Following new outbreaks of foot-and-mouth in the West Country, Mrs Beckett warned that there may be an increase in culling in certain areas.

While rendering remained the best option for carcass disposal, limits on capacity meant mass burials were often more practical, she said.

“There may be short-term increases in the daily rate of slaughter in certain areas which cannot be dealt with by rendering.”

“In such circumstances it cannot be ruled out that existing burial sites which we have already available and which are a national resource may need to be drawn on.”

As part of contingency planning, the use of a small number of sites has already been cleared with the relevant authorities, she said.

Although foot-and-mouth figures may have fallen in recent weeks, there is no room for complacency, warned Mrs Beckett.

Every effort must be made to bear down the disease, and further outbreaks of the virus must be anticipated if it is to be eradicated.

This depended on the continued co-operation from farmers in maintaining biosecurity, and in deploying sufficient resources, she said.

The Army was recalled on Wednesday (13 June) cope with the cull of thousands of animals after a number of cases emerged near Tiverton, Devon.

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