Welsh appalled by foot and mouth aid U turn

Dai Davies, president of NFU Cymru, says his members are astounded and appalled by the revelation that government excluded Wales and Scotland from its original foot and mouth aid package.

He claimed that the U-turn Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the environment, made before delivering his statement indicated that the UK government was abrogating its responsibility to help all foot and mouth affected farmers.

It beggared belief that Mr Benn had ignored the fact that the Pirbright Institute was the source of the infection. His decision not to provide £6.5 to the Welsh Assembly meant it had to raid its own coffers to avert a welfare disaster.

The Farmers Union of Wales said its members had been “sold down the river” by the Government’s aid package for English farmers.

Gareth Vaughan claimed that, by concentrating on England the minister had turned his back on the principle, drummed into the minds of farmers over many years, that the polluter paid compensation wherever the impact of that pollution was felt.

In this case the minister appeared to accept that the government’s Institute of Animal Health’s laboratory at Pirbright was the “most likely” source of the infection.

“In our book that amounts to a moral obligation that the polluter must pay,” said Mr Vaughan. “Therefore funds must be available from central government to assist Welsh and Scottish farmers as well as English farmers,” Mr Vaughan said.

Both unions praised Elin Jones, the assembly’s rural affairs minister, for her determined efforts to get central funds to help Welsh farmers.

She said she was disappointed that there was no funding for Wales.

“My discussions with DEFRA and the UK treasury remain in order to access funds from the reserve to meet the costs associated with helping Welsh farmers to recover from the foot and mouth outbreak,” Ms Jones claimed.

Around £7m had so far been allocated to assisting the farmers affected through a light lamb welfare slaughter scheme and enhanced promotion of Welsh red meat.