Producers face £20m bluetongue vaccine bill

England’s livestock farmers are expected to have to pay almost £20m to vaccinate stock against bluetongue disease – and it is unlikely European funding will be available to help meet the cost, Farmers Weekly can reveal. And tougher movement restrictions are on the way, too.

DEFRA’s vaccination strategy, details of which have been obtained by Farmers Weekly, suggests the average cost per vaccinating farm is likely to be about £330 under a voluntary programme.

In contrast, DEFRA estimates a compulsory programme would be more than 50% more expensive at about £30m, due to the increased regulatory burden, enforcement to check compliance and increased administrative costs. Sharing some of this additional cost with the industry would raise the cost per farm by about 40% to £470.

Although EU co-funding is available for 100% of the cost of the vaccine and 50% of the delivery (up to a certain ceiling), it would only be available for 2008 and, DEFRA fears, any attached constraints may slow the programme delivery.

However, it is clear from the document that DEFRA is unlikely to consider it worthwhile applying for co-funding. “Even taking in to account the effect of any possible co-funding, the costs of a compulsory programme still significantly outweigh the costs of a voluntary one.”

In addition to extra enforcement and administration costs, the terms of the UK’s rebate as outlined under the Fontainebleau agreement mean the real value of any co-funding is only around one-third of anything awarded, further reducing the incentive to apply.

The document also notes that any funding could only be claimed after the programme has been delivered and would be subject to audits.

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