More focus needed on cost-sharing debate

UK farmers need to focus on the aims of animal health and disease cost-sharing and spend less time focusing on who is paying what, according to one of New Zealand’s top agricultural ministers.

Barry O’Neil, New Zealand’s biosecurity minister and president of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), said the debate around cost-sharing had lost its way as the industry concentrated on funding.

“The government can’t do everything because resources are limited,” Mr O’Neil said.

“We must agree what the priorities are, prepare for the possibility of disease outbreaks and put in place surveillance.

“There’s got to be an element of sharing costs – it gives us certainty of action and gives the industry partnership in decision-making.”

Mr O’Neil said many of the OIE’s member states had seen reluctance from industry with regard to cost-sharing, but insisted there were benefits from the approach.

“In New Zealand we have cost-sharing in place for endemic diseases like TB and also for exotic disease,” he said.

“We have TB-free status, achieved by spending NZ$1bn (£390m) over the last 10 years.

“We sustain it by spending NZ$55m (£21.5m) a year on controlling the disease reservoir, in our case by culling possums and TB tests, which we split between the industry and government.”

Mr O’Neil refused to comment on whether he thought England should have a badger cull, but said he was meeting DEFRA on Wednesday to swap notes on animal health and welfare.

“I can’t say whether killing badgers would benefit the environment in the UK.

“I know Wales is going a different way and maybe the experience will be very useful for other parts of the UK in future.

“It’s a very difficult and emotive issue.”