Sunday, July 23, 2017

Defra's latest consultation

On 19th July, Defra opened a new consultation - [link] inviting views on cattle measures in the High Risk Area of England and other tweaks to their flagship Low Risk Area.

These things are usually done and dusted, with paperwork fluttering around merely to indicate that interested parties have 'been consulted', before Defra does what it wanted all along. The introduction gives readers a Jack and Jill view and a few pointers:
The proposals in the consultation document fall in to three broad categories: *Simplifying surveillance testing in the High Risk Area of England. These proposals have been developed following a Call for Views in 2016. The response to the call for views can be found at found at

* Increased use of private vets to support the delivery of TB controls

* Changes to the TB compensation system to more effectively encourage risk-reducing behaviours at the farm level.
It is important before filling in any form, especially one from Defra, to read the small print. And then read it again. Some of the plans are explained more fully here -[link] And while seeming innocuous on first reading, they seek to pass a lot of extra cost onto cattle owners.
 This applies to testing under certain circumstances, and also compensation for animals moved on under licence during a breakdown. The intention is to reduce that figure to 50 per cent of tabular for certain categories of reactor, and animals consigned dirty to abattoirs.
 Veterinary practitioners may be used more, replacing APHA staff, but their visits will be paid for by the 'beneficiary', the farmer, not Defra.

 Annex A explains that most of the rigmarole of contiguous testing, trace testing and radial will be replaced by two tests per year. And a further pdf, explains the rationale behind this:
TB testing addresses a market failure caused by the under provision of disease freedom in the free market. It provides requirement for farmers to test their cattle, preventing individual businesses to free ride on the disease control efforts of others. However, TB testing legislation can be improved to reduce its administrative burden and provide additional disease control benefits.

A move to 6 monthly routine testing will simplify the regulatory environment by replacing a complex suite of existing tests which depend on the circumstances of each farm business. This will reduce the administrative burden of dealing with different reasons for requiring a test and move farm businesses to a standardised testing regime.

The introduction of earned recognition can reduce administrative burdens further for farm businesses that face the lowest risk of suffering a TB breakdown by reducing the number of routine tests they must do. This incentivises keepers to introduce more effective bio-security to benefit from earned recognition.
We have a better idea. How about double compensation for home bred reactors, on farms with no bought in cattle? No?  We thought that wouldn't go down too well.

That weasel phrase 'earned recognition' makes our blood boil, when home bred reactors are loaded up to be shot, because of decades of government intransigence over wildlife upspill of disease. And no amount of bio-garbage will prevent this, unless farmers are prepared to keep cattle in hermetically sealed boxes 24/7 to achieve their 6 year of  'earned' TB clear with a bonus of annual testing.

 How the new testing regime will pan out, and who will benefit is explained in this Annex C - [link]

 Details of extra veterinary costs, restrictions on restocking and slurry management are in Annex D -[link] This also includes the banning of red markets in the low Risk area, changes and cost realignment to AFUs and phasing out of grazing AFUs.
'Cost realignment' is a cosy way of explaining that these costs pass to markets and farm businesses via local vets rather than through Defra. But ultimately ALL costs are passed back down the line via prices or levies, to the primary producer. Us.

Annex E - [link] deals with compensation for reactor animals. The three point plan is as follows:
*Introduce a cap on individual TB compensation rates of £5,000 per reactor(an animal that is found to be infected with TB) , replacing the current no upper limit.

 *Reduce compensation paid to 50% of current value for cattle brought into a breakdown herd which subsequently test TB positive while the herd is still under TB restrictions .

 * Introduce a charge by APHA in the form of 50% compensation reduction to cattle owners for the processing and disposal of unclean cattle sent to the slaughterhouse and for which the condemnation is as a result of owner action/inaction.)
Finally a Consultation letter - [link] invites us to respond by 29th September to this new clamp down on cattle and increase in costs.

All this, while sporadic farmer funded badger culls, are made more onerous - [link] and certainly less attractive to participants by recent Defra add ons, and no action appears to be forthcoming on other susceptible farmed animals whatsoever.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thrown under a bus.

We pointed out in this posting - [link] just how convoluted and difficult, badger cull areas were for farmers to set up and operate. Not to mention expensive.

So as we said in the posting linked to above, farmers who had signed and paid up front for the privilege of culling badgers for just 42 nights on their own land, were none too pleased to find Defra have now added a few bits to those contracts.  

The cynics among us would think that Defra did not want zoonotic Tuberculosis eradicated, just its cost to the taxpayer..

If you remember, a couple of years ago, Defra published a a road map - [link] of farms with TB incidents, which led dear old Camel Ebola (who likes to be called Jay Tiernan) to thank them so very much for that information. He had much more use for it than farmers.

 And now, as farmers are being encouraged yet again, to sign on the dotted line, right up to date, Farmers Guardian - [link] reports that: "Farmers taking part in the badger cull are at risk of being targeted by violent animal rights activists because of a new ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)". Well there's a surprise.

The paper continues:
The ICO has told the Government it must publish information about the impact the badger cull is having on local ecosystems within 35 days or end up in the High Court. For three years, Natural England had refused to reveal the analysis because it feared the information could be used to identify participating farmers, leaving them vulnerable to intimidation."
Reading the rules and regulations - [link] attached to these few and widely scattered culls which have begun, and absorbing the 'help' described above, given by both Defra and Natural England to those wishing to disrupt them, it's no wonder that some farmers have viewed the co-operation sought to do Defra's dirty work, as akin to being 'thrown under a bus'.
That's after being blamed for the epidemic in the first place of course.