By Jeremy Hunt, north-west England correspondent

FEARS that livestock prices will rocket to unprecedented levels as farmers restock after foot-and-mouth have led to a surge of appeals over compensation payments.

The first farmers to be hit by the disease, and who received rates of compensation below the new standard rates introduced on 28 March, say MAFF should make up the difference.

Over a quarter of producers responding to FARMERS WEEKLYs foot-and-mouth survey said compensation was inadequate.

Under MAFF regulations, farmers have 14 days to appeal. But early victims failed to do so because they were not aware that better payments would be introduced as the outbreak progressed.

The anticipated escalation of stock values in the coming months, fired by talk of dairy cows at 2000 this autumn and suckler cows with calves at foot at a similar level, has brought a flood of appeals from farmers who fear they will not have enough cash to buy replacements.

Some who believe it could be at least nine months before they can re-stock are already staking a claim by ordering dairy heifers for New Year delivery.

Other farmers who had animals valued under the revised price schedule are also appealing to MAFF over compensation, fearing a substantial price hike for breeding stock.

According to the schedule, breeding cattle are worth 1100 apiece, heifers 900.

Carlisle-based solicitor Tim Cartmel, of Cartmel-Shepherd, said he was handling several compensation cases. And the NFU is also watching the situation.

“If MAFF refuses to acknowledge the discrepancies in the valuations of stock and the enhanced prices farmers are going to have to pay to restart their businesses, we will intervene,” said a spokesman.

But when farm minister, Nick Brown, addressed the Agriculture Select Committee on Monday (23 April), he said the introduction of standard valuations, which about 75% of farmers in England had adopted, did not mean earlier valuations were “somehow wrong”.

“I do not think it should be automatically assumed that the most generous rate applies,” he said.

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