LIVESTOCK farmers will be given more room to operate as more FMD restrictions are lifted tomorrow.
For the majority of sheep producers the news that the FMD-related 20-day standstill will be reduced to the normal six-day standstill tomorrow in the low risk area is particularly welcome.
“Livestock markets have had the go-ahead for just over a week and that has seen some return to normality, but the requirement for farmers to observe a ‘20-day standstill’ after any movement on to their premises has made life very difficult,” says NFU regional director Richard Ellison.
“Given the fact that tens of thousands of sheep would normally be moved over the autumn, the extension of the standstill period from the usual six to 20 days has made trading very difficult, so farmers across Yorkshire and the North-East will be hugely relieved to be returning to normal – certainly as far as movements are concerned.”
Despite the announcement last week that exports from designated low risk areas would resume, Mr Ellison said in practice this was proving almost impossible because of the conditions applied to the licences.
“As a result,” he added, “the next milestone will be when the EU agrees that exports from the low risk area can also return to normal. We can then set about trying to rebuild the export market so vital to our local livestock sector and this should help the industry regain the confidence necessary to halt the desperate slide in farmgate prices that we have seen in recent weeks.”
NSA chief executive Peter Morris said: “Risk assessed and proportionate relaxations on movement restrictions cannot come quickly enough for virtually all sheep farmers who are suffering terrible prices, as well as welfare and management problems at this time.
“However, no one must think that the difficulties are now over, we still have a way to go on FMD, particularly on the export side, and we must all keep up vigilance and bio-security to ensure there are no further outbreaks which will set the process back and smash confidence again.
“The concerns that still exist are represented by the news that the surveillance zone will stay in place until at least November. This time when we say FMD is gone it must be the case – the consequences would be disastrous if it resurfaced again.”
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Hill Farming, said: “I hope the Government is certain beyond any doubt that the disease is fully under control. What we do not want to see is the disease emerging elsewhere after the restrictions are lifted. The Government should also be under no illusions that the removal of restrictions would mean that the industry is back to normal. I was talking to a farmer in my patch only this morning who is receiving something in the order of 40% less money for his animals. I hope Defra puts its money where its mouth is and stumps up the cash to provide price support for farmers.”
Angus Collingwood-Cameron, CLA North-East director, said: “At last. These restrictions have become harder and harder to stomach as it was more and more certain that the disease was contained in Surrey. We have been pressing Defra on this point and at last they seem to have listened. The movement restrictions have been causing real difficulties to livestock farmers in the region. This will also supply a little much needed confidence to the industry.
“However, let no one think that this is the end of problems. Market prices, particularly in the sheep sector, are still very low and are unlikely to improve until the export market is fully open and functioning normally. This will not occur for some time yet.”