Tories slam cost of ‘new farm burdens’

English hill farmers will be worse off by £1000 a year under new government regulations, the Tories have claimed.

Proposals for disease cost-sharing and the electronic identification (EID) of sheep would pile the pressure on an already hard-pressed sector, said the Conservatives.

Shadow farm minister Jim Paice highlighted the impact of the proposals as he opened the North Sheep 2009 event in Preston, Lancashire, on Wednesday (3 June).

A typical hill farm with 600 sheep faced an annual cost-sharing payment of £247 and an annual EID payment of £762, making a total bill of £1009 a year.

A typical lowland livestock farm with 350 sheep faced slightly annual lower costs, at £287 for cost-sharing and £689.50 for EID, said Mr Paice.

“Plans for cost-sharing and electronic identification of sheep will cost the average hill farm about £1000, pushing an already marginal enterprise closer to the brink.”

Without improved support – let alone an end to disproportionate regulations – hill farmers would struggle to survive, Mr Paice warned.

“If hill farmers walk away local communities suffer, wildlife suffers and the landscape suffers,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we have a government that is totally out of touch with the realities of farming.”

The government’s belated opposition to EID was a far cry from when the idea was first mooted, said Mr Paice.

DEFRA had welcomed calls for EID in 2002, with the then animal welfare minister Elliot Morley saying he was convinced it was the way forward.

Mr Paice said: “The government supported the proposals when they could have been nipped in the bud.”

He added: “The government’s proposals for cost-sharing are exactly what we feared – more cost than sharing.”

A Conservative government would ask the industry to participate in devising the best policy of disease control and how it should be delivered.

Only then could a fair apportionment of the cost be made.