Cost-sharing plan needs to earn trust of industry

Discussions over responsibility and cost sharing need a ‘fresh start’, according to Rosemary Radcliffe, chairman of the Responsibility and Cost Sharing Programme’s advisory group.

Speaking at the BeefExpo, Hexham Auction Mart, Hexham, Ms Radcliffe said one of the priorities was to earn the trust of the industry.

“We need a robust analyse of the cost and benefits of cost sharing, to earn trust across the industry.”

And as part of the ‘fresh start’, the programme is looking into current spend on animal health and future financing arrangement.

“This is the first time in the 10 years since discussion began, that in-depth work has been carried out on the financial side of cost sharing. Currently, we are working out how much is being spent and who’s spending what on different areas.”

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Ms Radcliffe said: “The Responsibility and Cost Sharing Programme advisory group is looking at all possible options for the future.

“For example, we are looking at the ways a fees and charges regime may provide an incentive/disincentive scheme.”

The incentive scheme could work so that any producer importing stock would be rewarded for thoroughly testing purchased stock.

Although the advisory group could not give any firm conclusion as to how the scheme would be implemented, the future could involve a system of “sticks and carrots” so producers have an incentive to get better.

“With the recent change in government administration, I need to sit down with them and discuss how things proceed.” And although the date of the final report should remain the same (autumn 2010), it is possible the sequence of event may change, she said.

“The new government states that: ‘We will investigate ways to share with livestock keepers the responsibility for preparing for and dealing with outbreaks of disease.’ As a result, and with a bit of luck, it is likely we can move forward.”

Ms Radcliffe stressed that responsibility and cost sharing was a hugely complex area, bringing together many issues including food security, human health and carbon footprints.

“I’m depressed that this has been in discussion for nearly a decade, but there is no real surprise it has taken this long.”

However, because the topic has been discussed for such a long period, it was important to recognise what had changed over this time.

“Food security and climate change have become more important and we need to factor this in to any decisions.”

Including carbon footprint calculation in responsibility and cost sharing is essential, said John Gilliland, chairman of the Rural Climate Change Forum.

“Disease has a massive carbon footprint and the main way to reduce this footprint is to reduce disease and slaughter animals quicker.”