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Farmers have nothing to hide from investigations into foot and mouth compensation payments, the NFU said today.

Reacting to the news that the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee are to investigate payments, NFU President Ben Gill said: "Some of these animals were pedigree stock, with bloodlines built up over generations.

"They were worth tens of thousands of pounds each with hundreds of animals in a herd. Farmers' breeding stock is their biggest capital asset. Farmers did not pull a figure out of the air - animals were independently valued.

"Farmers will use the money to try to re-build their shattered businesses and the lives of their families.

"Farmers have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. Whatever compensation payments are being made, no money can ever make up for the devastating loss of years of work in this way.

"Hundreds of farmers have seen their life's work - and in some cases the work of generations - simply wiped out. They are understandably hurt and insulted, then, that they are being presented in this derogatory manner."

On the issue of insurance, Mr Gill said: "This evil disease was brought in by imported meat or animals because current controls are lamentably poor.

"Surely at this time the Government's focus should be on preventing this - or any other disease - from reaching the UK. The costs of better controls of imports would represent a small premium to pay to prevent disease ravaging herds ever again."

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