We are reliably informed that Defra have appointed a new face to their TB team. No, not a wildlife specialist in population management, this person is a genuine 'bean counter'.
An accountant - or to be more precise a 'Compensation Accountant'.
This site has already described the dubious 'benefits' of having a cattle herd under restriction for Tb. But the inevitable result of a static and highly infective wildlife maintenance reservoir, has increased cattle slaughterings beyond even Defra's 20 percent / per annum prediction and brought the Tb budget to the attention of the Treasury.
In evidence to the EFRA committee earlier this year, our Ben, Mr. Bradshaw said he was determined to hold the budget down to last year's level of £31 million. (That's just the bit that farmers are paid you understand, not the other two thirds). His first foray into this was to sort out the valuers, and last week a new system of valuations was introduced. No longer could a farmer with Reactors to be 'Compulsorily Purchased' - (We prefer that to the term 'Compensation') choose who valued them. Defra or in this case, the local SVS office would appoint one for him. But as usual each county SVS office has done its own thing, and while some counties have only a couple of valuers, others operate a huge list with all the world and his dog on it.
We hear that in the first week of this 'system', a 'valuer' actually asked a farmer what he wanted for his cow, after cheerfully announcing that he sold sheep on Wednesday, chickens on Friday and furniture on Saturday and actually knew very little of cattle values! Why are we not surprised?
Some valuers give good value to their paymasters by packing several visits into a day, while others, knowing that only the first visit attracts a premium, make sure that they only do - one visit.
But Mr. Bradshaw has obviously heard the knives rattling at the Treasury, and having told the EFRA committee, (and parliament) that bTb was decreasing at 14 percent (it's not - it's up 25 percent a year) he had to do 'something'. In fact 'something' must be done said the same committte. That mythical 'something' is sounding like an 'A' level English grammar lesson. So our Ben's done it. And his solution has nothing to do with sorting out the disease in the wildlife reservoir, but a 'Compensation Accountant' to 'sort out' (reduce) the cost of killing thousands of cattle.
Would that job creation opportunity have been needed if we only slaughtered 638 cattle as in 1986?
At today's average 'Compulsory Purchase' price that's less than £1 million. And as cattle slaughterings head ever higher, (25 percent / per year over the last 4 years) that pegged £31 million will see some seriously undervalued animals, and some seriously stressed farmers.
The old system of a bog standard 'market price' for the animal and the farmer insuring for the difference in pedigree values is now unworkable, and once again we are most grateful to Mr. Bradshaw for explaining in his parliamentary answers that "The Insurance Industry is not offering new Policies".
What Mr. B. omitted to explain is that any farmer who is lucky enough to have a policy in place has found that it's premium has increased ten fold, while cover is halved, and in the event of a claim, no new cover can be obtained.
This administration has rendered Britain's cattle farmers uninsurable for Tb, and now appointed a 'Compensation Accountant' to make sure they don't overcharge the treasury for the priviledge of killing their cattle.
Will the last cattle farmer in GB turn out the light?