5 September 1997

Whos paying for database?

FARM organisations are split over how to pay the running costs for the planned national cattle database.

Although MAFF has yet to announce how much industry will have to contribute, junior farm minister, Jeff Rooker, reiterated last week it should expect to bear the brunt of the costs.

Mr Rooker, who toured the future British Cattle Movement Service headquarters at Workington, Cumbria, and unveiled its new corporate logo, said a decision on establishment and running costs would be made by Oct 14.

Bill Madders, chairman of the cross-industry database working group, admitted industry had yet to reach an agreement on the method of payment, though a number of options were open.

These included charging producers for cattle passports, and operating a "pay-as-you-go" scheme – with a payment made each time a cattle movement was recorded.

Mr Madders favoured splitting the cost, with payments at birth and slaughter. "In my view, it is better to collect money firstly at point of registration, when the farmer applies for a cattle passport, and secondly when the animal dies and enters the food chain."

NFU deputy president Ben Gill said the union, at the moment, preferred the idea of a pay-as-you-go system because it spread the charge evenly across all sectors of the cattle industry. But he accepted there were strong arguments in favour of alternative charging systems.

"We need to get details on exactly how much the administration costs would be to charge for every cattle movement. And, obviously, this whole issue is something we would want to consult our members on before we reach any conclusions," Mr Gill said.

Archie Sains, MLC senior consultant, believed a simple charge for cattle passports would be far easier and cheaper to administer. He claimed the pay-as-you-go option could lead to debt collection problems. &#42

Bill Madders: Industry has yet to decide how to pay for the national cattle database.