8 May 2001
More cuts ahead for welfare scheme

By Isabel Davies

THE government has revealed plans for another reduction in payments under the livestock welfare disposal scheme from the middle of next month.

A Ministry of Agriculture consultation paper on the schemes future suggests cuts in the coverage of the scheme and new, lower payments from mid-June.

The paper suggests reducing payment rates for breeding cows and heifers from 900 per head to 500 and lamb payments from 95p/kg lwt to 50p/kg lwt.

The scheme was introduced so in March farmers could receive compensation if they had to kill healthy livestock under foot-and-mouth movement restrictions.

The first cut in payments came on 30 April in a move widely condemned by farmers leaders, who felt the reduction was premature.

But the paper states that farmers increasingly have options open to them for resolving animal welfare problems other than putting them through the scheme.

It says it is clear the need for the welfare disposal scheme will continue to reduce as the number of farms faced with restrictions diminishes.

The paper invites comments on four different options suggesting that at the end of the consultation one or more of the following should apply:

  1. Revised payment should only be available for breeding stock in infected areas;
  2. Revised payments for animals for the market only to be available in infected areas without abattoirs or for farms with Form Ds preventing sales;
  3. Revised payments to be restricted to farms within infected areas or subject to Form D restrictions;
  4. Revised payments to be available to all animals in exceptional circumstances where MAFF vets can show there is an ongoing welfare problem resulting from disease restrictions.
At a briefing on Tuesday (8 May), MAFF officials stressed there would be no further changes to the scheme until consultation had been carried out.

A spokesman said ministers would consider responses to the consultation which ends on 4 June before making any further cuts to payment rates.

Meanwhile, the ministry has also revealed further details of new rules for farms under Form D restrictions which prevent livestock from being moved.

Instructions have been sent to local MAFF offices setting out arrangements needed for farms within 3km of an infected premises to send animals to slaughter.

Farmers should be able to move animals to slaughter under licence so long as no more cases occur within the 3km protection zone for 15 days.

Other changes may be on the way. Officials confirmed that MAFF is in talks about allowing the movement of bulls, rams and boars for breeding purposes.

Britains livestock industry has raised the issue as a particular problem and a decision could come before the end of the week.

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