Still no official guidance on F&Mprotocol

30 March 2001

Still no official guidance on F&Mprotocol

FIVE weeks into the foot-and-mouth crisis arable farmers are still waiting for official guidance on what they should do to minimise the risk of spreading the devastating disease.

MAFF should have had guidelines for arable growers ready much earlier, says NFU chief arable adviser Paul Ibbott. Substantial difficulties with growers not knowing whether they can or can not move machinery have only been avoided so far because of the late season, he says.

"Our advice is to do your very best to minimise movement of materials and equipment that could be a vector for the virus. But what we are not saying is do not do anything."

Draft MAFF guidelines for arable operations were received by the NFU earlier this week. They include the advice that if it is necessary to cross a public access route within a 10km radius of an infected holding, the vehicle should be cleaned and disinfected.

Once introduced the guidelines will constitute the equivalent of a code of practice, says Mr Ibbott. A breach would substantially weaken a growers defence should an outbreak on a nearby farm be blamed on his or her actions.

Fieldwork confusion

Meanwhile, a large-scale Berks arable farmer is still in the dark about what fieldwork he may and may not do under restrictions following a precautionary cull of 3000 pigs.

"Nothing has been clarified on the arable side," says Jonathan Holland, manager at Littlecote Farm Partners and vice-chairman of Newbury NFU (Arable, Mar 16).

Some D notices served before the slaughter on outlying parts of the 4450ha (11,000 acres) were recently lifted, allowing some plant growth regulators and liquid N to be applied to fields 20 miles from the main unit.

"Our local Trading Standards who bizarrely issue the notices on behalf of MAFF clearly over-reacted," he says. "But it is still hard to get any information. MAFF is making up the rules as it goes along."

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