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NFU Report To National Audit Office

The NFU's submission to the National Audit Office inquiry on foot and mouth
says the cost of the crisis for farmers and the country has been high
because the epidemic had taken a hold before adequate resources were made
available to tackle it.

The NFU's submission says that too often action was taken too late, leaving
the Government chasing the tail of the disease rather than heading it off.

The 20-page report says: "The authorities were overwhelmed by developments
at an early stage of the outbreak. This inevitably made more difficult the
task of retrieving the situation."

The NFU says that it was never shown the Government's contingency plans,
adding to the impression that it seemed ill-prepared for the outbreak.

In future, the NFU says in its submission, Government should share its
contingency plans, involve the industry more directly, quickly appoint
co-ordinators to direct operations on the ground, and communicate better.

The NFU says the introduction of Regional Operations Directors, the
military, the Joint Co-ordination Centre and local stakeholder groups
assisted the fight against FMD, but all should have been brought in sooner.

NFU President Ben Gill says: "Given the critical importance of rapid
slaughter in eliminating the disease and preventing its spread, there were
too many delays: in diagnosis and valuation, in deploying slaughter teams,
identifying contiguous premises and in cleansing and disinfection

"Delays in disposing of carcasses and confusion in the system of movement
licences have all added further to the emotional distress of farmers and the
cost of foot and mouth both directly and indirectly to agriculture and the
wider rural community."

The NFU puts uncompensated losses to farming - without losses to diversified
operations such as agri-tourism - at £1billion.

The report notes that farmers felt understandably annoyed by the
Government's handling of its reviews of the valuation system and of
cleansing and disinfection operations, which implied that farmers were under

In fact, the review concluded that the cost of C&D operations carried out by
farmers was generally lower than that of outside contractors. Inadequate and
inconsistent guidelines to vets, valuers and other contractors led to
further delays, confusion and inadequate financial control.

Delays in providing national guidance on key issues such as biosecurity are
also addressed in the NFU's submission, which recommends Government must:
* Share its contingency planning with the industry
* Work more closely with the industry
* Carry out an urgent review to strengthen import controls
* Install trained personnel early in a crisis to co-ordinate
* Involve stockholders from the outset
* Identify and get prior approval for specially constructed disposal
* Improve communications

But some of the fiercest criticism in the submission is reserved for the
Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme and the introduction of standard values
for compensation payments, which, after being amended four times in six days
during March, was then abolished. Changes to the schemes are the subject of
legal action being taken by the NFU on behalf of members.

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