Cost-sharing back on the cards

Animal health cost and responsibility sharing is back on the agenda for UK farmers, according to details of the coalition deal by the Tories and Lib Dems.

Published on Thursday (20 May), the parties’ Programme for Government sets out details on agreements reached around food, farming and the environment.

Contained in the document are plans to investigate ways to share the responsibility for preparing for and dealing with the costs of disease outbreaks.

The proposals mark an about-turn for the Lib Dems, who had opposed cost-sharing proposals drawn up by the Labour government.

At the time Lib Dem shadow farm minister Tim Farron criticised the plans as they “forced farmers to pick up the tab”.

Making another change to party manifesto pledges made before the election, the coalition’s document also sets out ways the government will deal with bovine TB.

Echoing the message repeated by previous DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn, the paper says government will introduce a science-led policy of badger control in TB hotspots.

In an interview with Farmers Weekly, newly appointed DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman refused to say she would back a cull – something the Conservatives had previously vowed to introduce.

“I am not going to rule options in and out,” she said. “What we need to do is look at the science.

“I am a great believer in evidence-led decision-making, so let’s first of all look at the science – all options need to be looked at.”

But the coalition document is not all bad news for farming.

It vows to reduce regulation on farmers by “moving to a risk-based system of regulation” and says government will develop a system of extra support for hill farmers.

It also pledges to increase procurement of British food in government, address problems in the planning system and look at ways to help with fuel costs in remote rural areas.

*Read more: DEFRA secretary tight-lipped on badger cull

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