DEFRA is under pressure to abolish rules preventing livestock from being moved off a holding for six days after new animals come on to the premises.
Farm minister George Eustice has agreed to discuss the issue but warned that it would be difficult for the government to remove the six-day standstill rule.
South Lakes Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron made the plea for the rule to be removed during DEFRA question time in the House of Commons on Thursday (9 January).
“Farmers in Cumbria have their hands tied by excessive restrictions such as the six-day movement rule,” said Mr Farron.
“Given that two years ago the government agreed in full recommendations in the MacDonald report, when will farmers see these recommendations enacted?”
DEFRA’s six-day stand-still rule was put in place to reduce the risk of disease being spread by livestock movements when animals are traded by farmers and livestock dealers.
The rule says “movements must not take place from any premises where one or more animals have been moved in the six day period prior to the movement”, except direct to slaughter.
Livestock movements were blamed for the rapid spread of foot-and-mouth disease, which devastated agricultural life across the country in 2001.
But Mr Farron said many farmers believed that the rules, which are still in place today, are outdated, hampering their businesses and should be abolished.
The government commissioned the MacDonald review to look at the issue matter in 2011. The review recommended more than 200 ways of reducing unnecessary “red tape”.
Many Lake District farmers believed the time was right to axe the standstill rule, said Mr Farron, who urged ministers to look at alternatives would will deliver animal safety.
Mr Farron said: “Considering that we are not currently facing a foot-and-mouth crisis, the six day standstill rule serves absolutely no purpose apart from making life difficult for farmers.
“Considering that we are not currently facing a foot-and-mouth crisis, the six day standstill rule serves absolutely no purpose apart from making life difficult for farmers.”
Tim Farron, MP
“I hope that when we meet the minister we can convince him to urgently look again at this matter.
“If we were to experience a new outbreak of the disease, then it would be essential to have the rule back in order to protect farmers and their animals.
“However there is no need to have this rule during ‘peace-time’.”
In response, farm minister George Eustice said the government wanted to remove unnecessary regulations but didn’t want to do anything that would compromise animal health or safety.
“It is difficult because the six-day rule movement was a key measure that was brought in to combat the spread of diseases such as foot-and-mouth, so it is not simple to remove that.”
Mr Eustice said farmers had raised the issue with him and agreed to discuss the issue with Mr Farron. But again he added: “It is not simple – we don’t want to jeopardise animal health.”