MAFF: Pig aid is a substantial bonus

1 September 2000

MAFF: Pig aid is ‘a substantial bonus’

By Alistair Driver

THE Ministry of Agriculture insists its compensation offer of 35 a pig for animals slaughtered in swine fever control areas is a substantial bonus for farmers.

MAFFs defence of the compensation package in the face of a furious backlash from producers looks set to further incense pig farmers.

The National Pig Association had described the compensation package as a disaster for farmers affected by swine fever controls.

It said 100 for each pig entered into MAFFs slaughter scheme designed to alleviate welfare problems would have been appropriate.

Angry pig farmers are threatening a return to direct action, wanting to vent their anger at what one producer has called the final nail in the coffin of UK farmers.

But a MAFF spokesman hit back saying the ministry had done all it could to a package that reflected what it could afford and what would be permitted under EU competition law.

He said compensation for farmers was not automatic at the start of the outbreak.

It is a special one-off payment that reflects the exceptional circumstances of the pig industry and helps ease animal welfare problems, he said

It was not intended to compensate farmers for business losses. If it had been, the EU would not have allowed us to make the payments, he said.

We also had to be careful the payment did not provide an incentive for farmers to put more pigs into the welfare scheme than they needed to.

The compensation will be paid by the UK government. The spokesman indicated the money had only been secured after a tussle with the Treasury.

It is always difficult to get any money out of the Treasury. We have just secured significant quantities of new money for the pig industry and getting more was difficult.

NPA chairman John Godfrey pointed out that Dutch farmers got full market for their pigs following the swine fever outbreak there in 1997.

But the MAFF spokesman said it was not appropriate to compare the outbreak there which spread to other member states and led to the slaughter of 11 million pigs with the outbreak here that has only affected five farms.

His words are unlikely to appease furious pig producers who have been expressing their feelings on the NPA website.

Richard Longthorp, a Yorkshire pig farmers said Mr Browns announcement must surely come as potentially the final nail in the coffin not only of East Anglian pig farming nor of UK pig farming but of farming in the UK as a whole.

He accused the government of treating pig farmers with contempt and said Mr Brown has sown the seeds of unworkable disease protocol in the future.

Does Mr Brown know what he has done? Does he bloody well care? he said.

He called for the British industry to stand behind any action that is called for and respond in the appropriate manner.

Other contributors echoed the feeling that the industry has been let down by government and backed calls for the industry to unite in active protest.

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