Memorandum submitted by the National Farmers'
Union of England and Wales (J9)
The NFU welcomes the opportunity to submit further
written evidence to the Agriculture Committee as part of its follow-up
to sessions held in 1998-99 on Badgers and Bovine Tuberculosis.
The NFU represents over 60,000 farmers and growers.
In 1996, 1,670 herds were under restriction.
By the end of 1999 this had increased to 2,446, an increase of
46 per cent. Latest industry figures demonstrate that as many
as 2.9 per cent of herds are now under restriction. Indeed, figures
for particular counties are even more startling. In Herefordshire,
figures to June 2000 show 68 confirmed new incidents, almost as
many as in the whole of 1997. In Gloucestershire, over 10 per
cent of cattle herds are now subject to a TB2 herd movement restriction.
The NFU has remained supportive of the recommendations
of the Krebs Report which are being implemented by the ISG under
Professor Bourne. The culling trials, which form a central part
of the recommendations, will determine scientifically the extent
of the link between TB in badgers and cattle. It is hoped that
the findings of the trials will point to a strategy leading to
the elimination of M. Bovis from both species.
In our previous submission, the NFU noted that
it was essential that decisive action be taken as early as possible.
While the Krebs Report was completed in 1998, it has taken until
October 2000 for all 10 trial areas recommended by the report
to be announced. To date, proactive culling has taken place in
only five of the areas, and reactive culling in three.
This delay was criticised as disappointing and
frustrating in the ISG's Second Report. A number of factors have
contributed to the delay. Sabotage by those acting in the name
of conservation has hampered the implementation of the trials.
Some of the threats received by farmers in trial areas have led
to some reluctance to participate. These problems are difficult
to counter, but there has equally been a lack of resources invested
in the exercise. Many feel that poor remuneration discourages
potential staff and that in some of the triplets, there has been
an inadequate level of protection by law enforcement agencies.
Delays to implementing the trials are costly:
they inevitably delay the outcome of the trial itself. The NFU
therefore recommends that the government invests sufficient resources
in the exercise to maintain the shortest possible timetable for
completion of the trials.
The results of the first trials should be available
some time before the end of the exercise itself. If the results
of the early trials demonstrate strongly that a particular course
of action will control TB in cattle, it is imperative that action
is taken on the basis of the initial findings rather than waiting
for the outcome of all 10 triplets.
In September 1999, MAFF established an industry
TB Forum that brought together the interests of the Government,
vets, welfare groups and farmers to discuss what additional measures
could be recommended to tackle the growing problem of TB in cattle
and badgers. The NFU had pressed MAFF to set up such a forum with
a view to discussing the issues fairly and objectively, in an
However, it is clear to us that some of the
parties that have come to the Forum have maintained entrenched
positions that have hampered progress on a number of initiatives
that have come before the Forum. Moreover, because of the positions
of certain conservation groups, the Forum has been precluded from
discussing the key issue of TB in badgers. This has rendered the
Forum as little more than a talking shop left to consider remedial
husbandry and farm management measures that are likely to be of
limited benefit. The very fact that most of the measures aim to
separate cattle and badgers is evidence that all parties consider
TB in badgers to be a problem. But without the desire to consider
holistic approaches to the problem, the Forum has now become a
costly diversion. The desperation of NFU members has regrettably
led the NFU to leave the Forum. We will continue to engage directly
with Government in order to represent the interests of our members.
The Forum has discussed at length the effects
of animal husbandry in protecting cattle from TB. Throughout,
the NFU has played a pivotal role in the debate and has participated
in the Independent Husbandry Panel set up by the Forum to consider
husbandry and management practices. The report of the panel compiled
in detail the range of literature on the subject and provides
a useful reference point for producers, vest and consultants on
measures that may have an impact.
In our experience, farmers have already taken
great strides to adjust their husbandry and management techniques
to cope with the effects of TB in their herds. Moreover, farm
assurance schemes in the beef and dairy sectors are actively promoting
the highest standards of herd health and disease prevention. Yet
there are moves within the Forum to compel producers to adopt
even tighter measures with a view to controlling the disease.
This is a dangerous development as:
(a) the recommendations of the Husbandry
Panel are backed up by little empirical evidence;
(b) producers who have taken every conceivable
step to prevent TB in their herd have still suffered breakdowns.
The ability of farmers to implement practical measures to separate
cattle and badgers is very limited;
(c) the incomes of both beef and dairy farmers
are severely depressed. Such measures are bound to unnecessarily
exacerbate the costs imposed on producers;
(d) the money invested in husbandry and management
measures will not provide a solution to the problem.
There is great merit in making the results of
research work available and of encouraging good management practices.
But this should never be made a condition of production nor of
receiving compensation for a problem which is out of the control
of ordinary farmers.
The NFU welcomed the decision in 1998 to increase
the compensation paid for reactors to 100 per cent of the market
value of the animal. Since then, we have continued to press Government
for financial assistance to offset some of the consequential losses
that arise as a result of TB herd movement restrictions. NFU figures
illustrated that the average cost to all farms under herd movement
restrictions is an additional £36,000.
Consequential costs/losses include loss of milk
production, inability to sell animals at seasonal intervals, increased
feed, labour and housing costs, loss of subsidy claims and increased
milk quota costs. In view of the current state of the livestock
sector, these are costs that the beef and dairy industries can
The NFU continues to urge Government to compensate
in full for the consequential losses of dairy and beef producers.
However, in view of budget limitations, we would welcome further
action on the following fronts:
financial assistance for capital
costs incurred in adapting businesses to cope with herd movement
sufficient discretion be allowed
by Divisional Veterinary Managers to allow producers to restock
following the removal of infected animals from cattle herds;
further consideration of measures
or outlets to allow producers to move animals off farms under
a review of temporary allocations
of milk quota by MAFF to producers under herd movement restriction,
to allow increased allocations to producers and to increase the
level of certainty of obtaining an award;
reconsideration of the current
force majeure procedures which pose problems for producers
who are under restriction from claiming suckler cow premium, beef
special premium and extensification premium payments.
The desperation of producers has never been
more acute. It is imperative that a holistic strategy is taken
now to try and control the disease. TB in cattle is controlled
by a strict testing and culling regime. However, these conditions
are not applied to a significant wildlife source, primarily badgers.
The NFU draws the attention of the Agriculture Committee to the
proposals that we submitted to it in 1999.
The proposals contained in the supplementary
written evidence to the Agriculture Committee inquiry on badgers
and bovine TB included, amongst others, the following elements:
1. Testing of contiguous farms to a new herd
outbreak to establish the extent of an outbreak and its epicentre.
2. Conducting a wildlife survey following
a second positive test to detect whether a wildlife species such
as badgers is carrying a residual infection.
3. Where a wildlife survey points to a probable
source of infection, removal operations of the source should take
place after a third positive test.
Some 18 months following the submission of these
proposals, producers have yet to see any concrete action being
taken in TB hotspots outside of the Krebs trial areas. The ISG
noted in its Second Report that it did not recommend wildlife
removal operations along the lines of those recommended by the
NFU as it could compromise the results of the trials. Now that
all 10 trial areas have been defined, action taken separately
and outside of the trial areas could not have any impact on the
The incidence of TB in cattle continues to increase
at an alarming rate. Coupled with this, agricultural incomes are
at historically low levels.
The NFU therefore demands that further action
be taken to:
speed up the completion of the Krebs
alleviate the costs of herd movement
restrictions on producers;
control the disease in hotspot areas
outside of the trials.
26 October 2000