Farmers' anger at 340m disease control levy

UK - Farmers face having to pay an extra 340 million a year to the Government to offset the costs of dealing with animal diseases such as foot and mouth, bluetongue and bird flu, it has been confirmed.
calendar icon 19 November 2007
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The proposed levy comes on top of heavy losses which farmers have already suffered by not being able to sell livestock.

About £120 million is being spent this year on tackling disease outbreaks, and ministers hope they can claw back about one third of that from farmers. The move comes as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is being forced to make up to £270 million in cuts.

Some farmers are particularly angry because this year's foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey was caused by material escaping from a Government research laboratory.

A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union said: "This is the worst possible time for the Government to be talking about sharing the costs of animal diseases with the farming industry, when it has been responsible for the worst disease outbreak in six years. We are talking with the Government about cost-sharing but we are not prepared to make a contribution unless we have a real say in the prevention of diseases."

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said that the bill was justified because the farming industry would be given more say in how diseases were controlled.

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