Sunday, February 05, 2006


A comment on the posting below asked how the farmers hosting this site would deal with the problem of bTb.

We answered that for cattle, the intradermal skin test + slaughter of reactors was the preferred control of bTb world wide, and satisfied global trading conditions. However action had to be taken on any other source of tb, and for that we favoured RT-PCR technology combined with management of any populations which haboured it. That for their own sakes as well as the inevitable spillover. Our commentator posted thus:

"Thank you - your summary of how you would tackle TB is very informative. Who do you propose should pay for all these measures, they sound very expensive. Surely not us tax payers? We already contribute £100m plus per year. All the messages I see coming out of DEFRA is that they have less money to spend, not more, so it looks like if you want to clear up this disease it will have to be financed by farmers. My prediction, which you might want to archive along with all your parliamentary questions, is that government will impose a TB levy on the whole cattle industry, with farmers contributing on a sliding scale depending on their parish testing frequency. "

We would agree in principle that the taxpayer should not have fund this, and if the level of tb achieved 20 years ago ( less than 100 herds affected and 686 cattle slaughtered) I suspect we would not be having this discussion at all. Nor in the 21st century, should we be.

The £100 million ' year is weighted heavily in favour of the beneficiaries' of the crisis as we have explained many times. Farmer compulsory purchase monies form under one third and with the tabular valuation, will drop even more - for a while. Testing costs attract another third of the budget with samples, haulage, slaughter, postmortems and endless 'experimental' work taking the rest. A compound had been built at Weybridge to test badgers. Its walls extend 15 feet into the Surrey soil. How does that square with Bradshaw's 'bio security is farmers' responsibility'? If Weybridge needs £500,000 worth of concrete, 15 feet deep to keep them inside, surely the same must apply to exclude them from grassland? This facility remains unused by the way. Another Defra playground.

Bradshaw is ahead of you on a levy. We understand that he's also approached the insurance loss adjusters to underwrite a 50:50 scheme. Their reply was 'exposure to risk is too high', that was when they'd finished laughing. In many areas, farmers are no longer able to obtain new cover Tb insurance. And if they are still insured, the premium has increased 10 fold and cover halved.

If such a levy were introduced then it would be for all animal diseases, not just Tb and I suspect farmers would then cancel their individual cover with their insurers for brucellosis, Fmd, swine fever etc.

Defra is a hole of their own making with this one, and they are not concerned as to who digs them out - or how. As long as they are not involved.
You make an interesting point on a 'sliding scale for parish testing frequencies'.
I feel that tabular valuations will squeeze farmers into a financial corner with this disease, and should your suggestion be implemented, then the 221 day latency of exposure from the UK strains of Tb to its provoking a skin reaction, (PQ's) could (in theory) mean that the whole country is on 4 year testing inside 7 months.

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