Farmers fury at compensation insult

1 September 2000

Eastern region pig producers are reported to have reacted with fury and despair over the governments 35 per pig compensation package for pigs caught up in the animal welfare (disposal) scheme announced today (31/8/00).

The scheme was designed to allow producers with pigs locked into surveillance zones to have an emergency slaughter outlet in the eastern region where they could send overweight pigs held on farms since classical swine fever first hit the area on August 8. This would ease the pressure on grossly overstocked farms which was leading to severe welfare problems and at the same time provide producers with some form of income at a time when their cash flows had ceased and bills were mounting.

The Intervention Board announced that the scheme would be up and running by August 29 and invited producers to register pig numbers to allow a programme of orderly slaughtering to commence. A former abattoir in central Norfolk was the designated site and all that was needed was government confirmation of the compensation rate for slaughtered pigs.

Producers were reluctant to consign pigs until they knew how much (if any) compensation they would receive for the slaughtered animals. Pressure to agree a compensation rate was applied to the minister from many sources and the National Pig Association had been pushing for a “market value” related figure to be announced.

An initial indication of the ministers reluctance to come up with a viable package was contained in an August 27 MAFF press release stating “There will be no compensation available in respect of animals entered into the scheme. However should compensation become available at a later date any eligible animals accepted under the scheme will receive payment at the rate approved.”

John Godfrey, NPA Chairman slammed the 35 compensation payment as a disaster for the industry and claimed that the ministers approach contrasted with the Dutch 1997 outbreak when their producers received full market value.

He also pointed out that the EC had agreed that UK farmers could receive full compensation. An EC ruling issued on August 31 stated that if full relief is granted by the UK government this will not be viewed as “economic aid” and fully reflected their stance on previous CSF outbreaks on the continent.

NPA regional manager Ian Campbell stated that this derisory 35 payment offer had been made without any prior consultation with the NPA or the NFU and came as an abrupt press release which in his opinion was made on a “take it or leave it basis”.

Although the NPA are already meeting the MAFF chief vet on Friday morning the whole tone of the meeting is expected to focus on the compensation furore and all other CSF matters will be sidelined according to NPA sources. Nor is there any optimism within the NPA that this would immediately lead to an increase in the money on the table.

Neville Kemp is one of the producers only 5km from the site of the infected herd at the source of the outbreak. He and his wife Mary have tirelessly mounted a media campaign to draw attention to the plight of all those caught up in CSF outbreak and he currently has 1,250 overweight finished pigs locked into the zone. He warned today that all the hard work and excellent liaison with MAFF had been undone and a programme of non-Cupertino could be the only weapon left to producers to fight their case.

The NPA Eastern Area Chairman Rod Tuck felt that the compensation offer was an insult to all hard pressed producers caught up in the CSF situation. He feared that some would be forced to smuggle pigs out of the zone now rather than hold on for a further two to three weeks and face a general price collapse when all the detained pigs hit the market. This would make future tracing of pig movements impossible if further outbreaks were detected during the testing period.

Other comments from throughout the industry refer to suggestions that producers will send Nick Brown the bills for extra feed and other costs of keeping pigs in the surveillance zones and threats that compounders will not be paid for feed supplies.

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