Welsh virus aid not enough

27 July 2001

‘Welsh virus aid not enough’

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

ALMOST one-third of an emergency foot-and-mouth aid package for Wales is not new money, claim farmers leaders.

And new cash in the 65 million rural aid package launched at Usk in Monmouthshire on Thursday (July 27) is not enough, they warn.

Hugh Richards, president of NFU Cymru-Wales, said 20m of the package had been previously agreed and was already in the pipeline.

The package is being spread over three years, with 25m spent across the whole of Wales in year one.

“It simply is not enough to stop rural businesses going under,” insisted Mr Richards.

“Long-term measures will be of no use to rural businesses, which need emergency aid if they are to survive.”

The timescale for delivering the aid, and the lack of up-front cash payments, also concerns the Farmers Union of Wales.

John Phillips, who represents the union on the Rural Partnership for Wales, called for a relief fund of hard cash, grants and interest-free loans.

Unions are also concerned that it will be difficult to implement sections of the package that require farm visits while foot-and-mouth disease persists.

The foot-and-mouth cull of 4000 sheep penned on common land on the Brecon Beacons is due to start later on Friday (27 July).

Epidemiologists have said that the large number of sheep with antibodies in the five flocks facing slaughter means that the disease is present on the hefts.

The news has sent shock waves through the ranks of graziers, whose 6000 sheep are due to be blood-tested at the weekend.

Meanwhile, The Times reports that public spending watchdog the Audit Commission has launched an inquiry into the handling of the epidemic.

The investigation by the government body will examine every aspect of the crisis in terms of money spent.

And in a visit to Cumbria on Thursday (26 July), Tony Blair was heckled by angry farmers for failing to launch a public inquiry into the disease.

Four new cases of foot-and-mouth were confirmed on Thursday; three cases in Cumbria and one in Warrington Unitary Authority.

The Warrington case has been linked to an earlier outbreak in Wigan, the source of which is still being investigated. The UK total now stands at 1895.


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