24 July 2001
Thousands have no hope – NFU
By Donald MacPhail
THOUSANDS more farmers than expected have no hope of beginning to pick up the pieces after foot-and-mouth, the National Farmers Union has warned.
Recovery plans are on ice at 5800 farms after the government extended its suspension of clean-up operations pending an inquiry into costs.
Only primary disinfection in the immediate aftermath of a case of foot-and-mouth disease will continue at the governments expense.
All secondary disinfection – which is needed so farms can restock – will be halted unless farmers first agree to pay for the clean-up themselves.
Operations were called to a halt on Tuesday (24 July).
Only 24 hours earlier, the government had said existing clean-up work or work about to begin would be allowed to continue.
But a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed: “All secondary cleaning operations have stopped.”
NFU leader Ben Gill was due to discuss the situation with junior agriculture minister Lord Whitty at an emergency meeting late on Tuesday (24 July).
Mr Gill said: “The situation was bad enough yesterday when we understood all new work was being suspended, but this is quite shambolic.
“Thousands of farmers who are halfway through the clean-up process will not be able to believe their ears when they are told it will have to stop.
“To halt work in mid-flow does not seem to make any financial sense either.”
Mr Gill said it was correct to review costs paid to contractors involved in the clean-up operation. But the suspension of all operations was “a disgrace.”.
However, the issue is confused because the government has backtracked on its claim that cleaning up each farm in England and Wales costs over 100,000.
Tony Blair had called a halt to secondary clean-up and disinfection after ruling in a leaked memo that the 100,000 figure was “unacceptable”.
A DEFRA spokeswoman has since admitted to FARMERS WEEKLY that the figure is an upper estimate, rather than an average sum for a typical farm.
So far only 1685 farms out of 8000 have had both preliminary and final cleansing and disinfection processes completed.
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