2 August 2002

Standstill rule could well

bring farmer defiance…

By FWreporters

FARM leaders have warned that producers may feel forced to defy the 20-day standstill rule this autumn, if, as expected, ministers confirm the movement restriction stays in place until towards the end of the year.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty had been expected to make an announcement as he toured Sheep 2002 at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern on Wednesday, July 31.

But he would only confirm the government was likely to follow the advice it had been given to keep the rule in place.

"This means that the decision is likely to be to retain the standstill in its essentials for this autumn subject to an additional exemption relating to rams and bulls," he said.

Officials are considering whether to allow breeding rams and bulls to be brought onto farms from markets without triggering the standstill if they are kept in approved isolation facilities and are checked by a vet 14-20 days after arrival.

But they are likely to reject calls for England and Wales to follow the lead set by Scotland, where farmers are allowed to apply for authorisation to quarantine individual animals without locking up the whole farm.

Lord Whitty indicated he disapproved of the Scottish system which he said would make disease spread more likely in the event of a further foot-and-mouth outbreak.

A final decision on is expected either today (Aug 2) or Monday (Aug 5).

The government first signalled its intent to keep the rule early this week when industry stakeholders were told it would stay in place pending further analysis of the soci-economic implications and a full veterinary risk assessment.

The suggestion has incensed the whole of the industry. Robert Robinson, chairman of the National Beef Association, described the rule as dangerous, unworkable and unnecessary.

And he warned that many farmers would find it impossible to comply. "Thousands of law abiding farmers could turn themselves into criminals this autumn because it will be impossible for them to obey the 20-day regulation and still be able to manage their fragile businesses."

Les Armstrong, NFU livestock committee chairman, agreed that some farmers could feel forced to risk prosecution by trading animals illegally. "I think some farmers will find it extremely difficult to comply," he said.

NFU Scotland urged farmers to take advantage of the countrys special separation authorisation arrangements to ease their situation.

Livestock committee chairman David Mitchell said: "Separation authorisations do not provide a long term solution to the very real practical problems caused by the 20-day rule, but at least they can help in the short term."

Lord Whitty listens to farmers at Sheep 2002.