Today’s discussions follow on from the Prime Minister’s talks with NFU president Peter Kendall and Richard Macdonald, the NFU’s director general, yesterday at Downing Street.
The Temporary Control Zone in Norfolk imposed after a suspected case of foot and mouth disease has now been lifted following negative laboratory results. The current situation remains centered on a farm in Surrey.
The farmers, all from the South East, were keen to explain to the Prime Minister the problems that the outbreak of foot and mouth disease had caused them. All of them were preparing for the most important period in the livestock year when the news of the fresh case of foot and mouth was released on Wednesday.
Surrey NFU chairman Mike Giffin is a dairy farmer and farm consultant. He said: “The first outbreak was hard enough to deal with but news of the second outbreak just as we thought we were getting back to normal was a disaster. This is the time of year when livestock farmers are trading their stock and their income for the year depends on it.
“The Prime Minister was sincerely interested in the issues we raised but the reality is that we have to get on top of the disease first. We did agree that the first priority was to contain and eradicate this outbreak and I am grateful for Mr Brown’s continued commitment.”
NFU president Peter Kendall was also at the meeting. He said: “This is a group of farmers who know what is happening at ground level and how the disease is threatening their businesses.
“For every day that the situation continues they are losing money because they cannot trade. However, we all know that the control and eradication of the disease is the priority at the moment. I continue to urge all farmers to check their stock daily and remain vigilant with strict biosecurity controls.”
Gordon Brown chaired another meeting of the government’s civil contingencies committee yesterday morning to discuss the latest incident.
Environment secretary Hilary Benn, the chief vet and other experts attended the meeting in Whitehall.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said that the decision to give the all clear after the previous outbreak was made on the basis of scientific evidence.
The spokesman said it was a decision “made by the chief vet supported by many academic experts” and that there was “absolutely no truth” in any suggestion political pressure had been applied to influence the chief vet.
The Prime Minister said earlier this week that he fully understood the “anxieties and worries” the farming community are experiencing.