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NFU President Ben Gill today outlined his concerns about the prospects for livestock farmers in England and Wales following DEFRA's clarification of the livestock movements that will be permitted this autumn.

Mr Gill said: "Farmers' first priority is to rid this country of the foot and mouth virus once and for all.

"In producing these changes to livestock movements, it has been necessary to negotiate a course that recognises the need to stamp out the disease and allows, where possible, the industry to move stock and prepare for the months ahead.

"I accept with a heavy heart the principles underlining the veterinary advice that the controls announced today are appropriate for the risks associated with the movement of livestock.

"In light of this, DEFRA must continue to work to move areas into lower risk status so that the impact of these controls can be reduced as fast as possible.

"In the meantime, the prospects for many livestock farmers are now extremely bleak."

Mr Gill added: "Farmers face the daunting prospect of winter approaching, with depleted feed supplies, increased stock numbers and a severe lack of cash-flow because they have had no income for many months.

"Our prime objective is to restore farmers access to commercial markets, but where this is not possible farmers need support from Government."

The NFU has been making the case strongly for enhanced payments under the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme and Mr Gill will be holding urgent talks with ministers in the coming days to ensure the plight of farmers is not ignored.

The NFU has also been in intense negotiations with DEFRA in an effort to make the necessary controls as manageable as possible.

There will now be no need for individual sheep ID and movements will be limited by a maximum time rather than a maximum distance. The threat to make farmers pay for veterinary inspections has also been removed.

Mr Gill said: "It is now absolutely essential that DEFRA and local authorities make these arrangements work smoothly on the ground and continue to press forward with the steps to provide the necessary confidence to move areas into the lower risk categories."

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