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The NFU today said the foot and mouth crisis, which is six months old on Monday, had changed the lives of every livestock farmer in the country forever.

NFU President Ben Gill said the foot and mouth disaster had landed an unprecedented body blow on Britain's battling agriculture industry, with much of the bruising still to come out.

Despite this, Mr Gill said more in-roads into the disease had been made than was generally realised.

His comments come as the first livestock market prepares to open for business in Scotland* since the outbreak began.

Ben Gill said: "The last six months have been desperate for farming and our rural communities but we have come a very long way since the early dark days when we had more than 40 fresh cases of the disease reported every day.

"Cases are now restricted to specific areas. It is also very good news that the Scottish are able to re-open a livestock market, albeit in a limited way."

But Mr Gill said widescale movement restrictions continued to cause severe problems for farms and the food chain in many areas of the country.

It was vital, therefore, that the push to snuff out the disease once and for all lost no momentum.

He added: "No livestock farmer has been left untouched by this disaster. The industry will never be the same again.

"I refer also to the "forgotten victims" whose animals have escaped the disease but whose businesses have been caught up in the necessary but damaging controls.

"I would urge farmers, staff, rural operators and indeed everyone to ensure that while the elements are working in our favour we capitalise on this time to beat this dreadful disease."

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