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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Should foot-and-mouth farmers receive compensation?
Farmers' leaders have reacted angrily to suggestions that some farmers are profiteering from the foot-and-mouth crisis.

They have also been infuriated by one minister's suggestion that they should take out insurance against future outbreaks of the disease.

The compensation bids have already caused controversy with an allegation - later denied - that one farmer bragged in his local pub that he made 1.3m out of the cull.

Now a National Audit Office report into the cost effectiveness of the Government's response to the outbreak will form the basis for an investigation to be carried out by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Do you feel that farmers should be compensated for losing livestock, often built up over many years? Or do you feel that this would amount to 'special treatment'?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

There is no justification for compensating farmers. The problem is mainly of their own making through their farming methods, motivated by greed. I feel there are some who are now actively trying to get their stock infected because of the attraction of compensation. In any case, all businesses should take insurance against disaster whatever its cause.
Jack Oliver, England

Farmers don't have insurance against foot-and-mouth because they don't need it

Barry, UK
Farmers don't have insurance against foot-and-mouth, as some say they should, because they don't need it. It is the law that says farmers get compensation. We should have thought about this before we started to slaughter all those animals perhaps?
Barry, UK

If anybody should be compensated for their losses it should be the tourist industry. They have been adversely affected by something that they had no control over. The farmers are suffering as a result of something that occurred within their own industry.
Joanne, UK

From what we've been told about foot-and-mouth, it started because of the actions of a farmer, spread because of actions of farmers and hasn't been eliminated because of the resistance of farmers to the government's slaughter policy. Why the hell should they be compensated? The rest of us have to live in a market economy so why can't they? Farmers have lived off subsidies for so long now they've forgotten that they need to generate an income by producing goods.
George, UK

Pay the farmers a fair price and they won't need subsidies

Nick, England
Farming is uneconomic at present, but without it the countryside would reduce to a barren, overgrown wilderness with no rural pubs, post-offices, businesses or schools, as no-one will desire to visit or live in an untidy mess. How many urban businesses are subject to the regulations and the public eye in the way that farming is? Farmers require subsidies because their returns no longer meet the cost of production. Animal welfare and other regulations have substantially increased the cost of production. Pay the farmers a fair price that covers the cost of production and they won't need subsidies, and could maintain the countryside as has been done for decades. Farmers would then be able to afford the substantial insurance premiums that could cover them for diseases such as foot-and-mouth.

How much is a pint of milk in your local supermarket? - I bet you don't know! Farmers are getting 20p per litre (11.4p per pint) and are breathing a sigh of relief as it has increased from 16p. Could you afford to pay 50p per pint and give the farmers a fair reward for the hours they work?
Nick, England

It seems to me that some of the compensation payouts are completely obscene. Of course farmers deserve to be compensated, but what they should be compensated for is the amount of their annual income plus the cost of getting back on their feet and starting new livestock herds.
Matthew, England

Farming is in crisis in this country because of the stranglehold of the supermarkets

I read the anti-farmers comments with a astonishment. Are you people really so gullible that the Government and their Fleet Street friends can lead you so easily? Farming is in crisis in this country because of the stranglehold of the supermarkets. They have driven the price they pay to farmers so low that many were close to failing before FMD arrived. And before the supermarkets take all the blame, we consumers are the root cause of the problem. Our demand for cheaper and cheaper food has driven the rise of intensive farming practices, which are slowly but surely destroying the eco-system of this country. Since when has cheaper meant better? The farmers that are receiving the large payouts have devoted many years to producing pedigree breeding stock, the back bone of the UK livestock production. Do you really want to depend on foreign farmers; especially the US and their GM-crazed politicians?

If we want decent, healthy food we need to reform agriculture in the UK. Remove subsidies based on head-count - they only line the pockets of the large, agro-industry players - and instead reward farmers who use sustainable, non-chemical dependent methods. As the old saying goes - 'you get what you pay for' - right now we are reaping the rewards of years of political neglect and MAFF's submission to the agro-industrial chemical firms!

If some farmers have been over-compensated, isn't this the fault of the civil servants who assessed their claims? Or is this another case of the civil service being incapable of accepting blame? I would suggest that all those tabloid readers who are rushing to judge the farmers should perhaps familiarise themselves with the full facts of every case before they bang their gavels and shout "guilty". But of course that takes effort, doesn't it?
David Hazel, UK

The only compensation these farmers should be entitled to should be unemployment benefit

Jon Hawkins, UK
Farmers have brought this problem upon themselves. I have been informed by a farming friend that "leasing" of livestock is a common practise. Farmers arrange for a large supply of animals to be delivered to their farm in time for the EU inspector's visit to increase their subsidy. When the inspector has left, the animals are shipped off to another farm, carrying with them any diseases they may have picked up. The only compensation these farmers should be entitled to should be unemployment benefit, like anyone else who cannot find work. 1 million isn't a compensation payment - it's a lottery win.
Jon Hawkins, UK

Farmers should indeed be compensated. They have been betrayed by the Government and misunderstood by the urban public. Without local farmers, rural life, as we have known it, will cease to be. With their demise, the countryside, already under threat, will suffer even more.
Maureen Lines, Pakistan

Amazing how some uninformed people are pontificating about "excessive" compensation payments in this forum. Are you aware that you only need to have 300 dairy cows slaughtered to pass the 1 million pound value? Are you also aware that the reason the Government is paying compensation is that their enforced slaughtering policy is ILLEGAL?
Bob Gosling, UK

The saddest aspect of FMD is the lack of understanding it has highlighted from those who have no experience of the countryside or knowledge of the issues that farmers face. I'm not a farmer, but comments such as "I've never seen a poor farmer" and "spoilt farmers" simply underline this naivety and ignorance. It is the right of everyone in a democracy to express their opinion (not to mention anyone with access to the internet), but shouldn't we stop to consider all the elements of what is at stake before making worthless and ill-informed comments that do nothing to forward the discussion! Stop this in-fighting and support one of the few industries left in this country that is still our own.

Several commentators suggest that farmers have no greater right to Government compensation than someone whose house has burned down. A reasonable argument, except that in this case the Government is the arsonist.
Susan, UK

The price we might have to pay with no farming in this country might be far worse

Alastair, UK
Production of food is not like other industries, we could manage until we built another steel works or car factory if for some reason we could not import any. We could not manage without food! What would happen if there was a sudden reduction of imported food for any reason such as war, crop failure or disease. Maybe things are not right with the system of subsidies, but the price we might have to pay with no farming in this country might be far worse.
Alastair, UK

I totally agree with Jacky - surely the farmers have insurance which covers such eventualities. If for some reason it does not, then I would agree that they should be compensated, but surely some of the amounts being quoted are excessive. Why should they get 100% compensation when in other situations you wouldn't get anything near it. It is a waste of resources, and I feel that a lot of farmers are swinging the lead - e.g. the fact that in Scotland, clean up costs are one third of those in England and Wales. Miners, steelworkers etc got a raw deal in comparison, but because we do not have the same sense of Olde Englande nostalgia for them, they come off worse.
Paul, UK

If the Government came to you and said that they are going to build a road over your house and your house was valued by an independent valuer at 100,000, would you say to Mr Blair "In the interest of the public good, I will accept 25,000 for my house". Not a chance. The same applies to farmers. After all it was the Government that made foot-and-mouth a notifiable disease with compulsory slaughter. The farmers have not asked for this disease!
Andrew, England

The Government knew that a mass-slaughter instead of letting the animals recover naturally would be expensive, and promised compensation. There were other options - this one was chosen because no one wanted to have to feed the animals while they recovered and they wanted "uncontaminated" meat for export. Now it seems like they don't want to pay up and are hoping for a public outcry against the farmers just like they hoped they would get an outcry against the fuel protesters. Its funny how easily the public is wound up and pointed in the right direction by unseen influences. Maybe the farmers should move onto soya beans.
John R, UK

What is this I hear? I was speechless with amazement: Britain - a country more virulently anti-European than any other - has, however, no hesitation whatsoever when it comes to money. Then of course the citizens are no longer hostile to Europe - they gladly accept the European taxpayers 66% compensation for the losses due to foot-and-mouth disease - a disease for which so-called traditional farming practices (which turn out to be dirty and unhealthy) are solely responsible!

Having HAD to visit Britain twice during the last year I found it to be populated by a citizenry stuck in the past, paralysed with little progressive and innovating thinking - arrogant, self-absorbed with dirty habits, an almost collapsed public transport system, neglect and shabbiness and dirty everywhere with a mind-blowing lack of interest in or respect for environmental issues. I found a sick population as sick as its livestock, a covert boiling sense of hostility as evidenced by murderous football hooligans, blatant and open racism, BSE and foot-and-mouth - all around disgusting. God forbid I would or should have to go there again.
Adagio, Canada

Neil, the countryside is in an incredible mess because of the "stewardship" of farmers. Let's see some hedgerows and woods back again. Shut down the uneconomic farming industry and turn the land back over to nature.
Gilbert, England

Of course they should. They have seen their livelihoods destroyed, and many must start again from scratch. Their situation has also been spectacularly mismanaged by our so-called Government. Anyone else would be crying out for compensation, so why should the farmers be treated differently?
Alex, UK

Yet again farmers are featherbedded in other people's money. They seem to think the world owes them a living. They moan about everything and demand either more subsidy or more compensation for doing less and less work. Yet they don't insure themselves, they shed crocodile tears when they see their infected animals burn; they moan if the weather is too wet or too dry; they probably feed their animals on infected feed because its cheap and then moan when their stock become infected etc. My dad spent 20 years trying to scratch a living running a newsagents - from 5:30 in the morning until 8pm at night 6 days a week. He paid his taxes, he paid insurance but never went cap-in-hand to the taxpayer during times of slump, strike action and recession. He eventually retired in some comfort and with some savings. At least he can say he earned his own money!
Adrian O, England

Vested interests win the day. Neither the Government nor errant farmers saw any need to be reasonable over foot-and-mouth because public money could be used to bail out the industry. Its outrageous, and just one more reason why people have no confidence in politicians generally.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

With million pound payouts I think we should now ignore the plight of farmers and think about the everyone else affected by foot-and-mouth. They're an over-subsidised lot anyway.
Carl, UK

Perhaps the farmers are entitled to whatever they can get

If the Private Eye is to be believed, the Government in general (and Maffia in particular) have between them spectacularly mismanaged the whole thing and in some cases have resorted to tactics more associated with old-style Eastern Bloc regimes in order to get their way. If that is true then perhaps the farmers are entitled to whatever they can get.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Jacky. Why the Government has so much sympathy for the farming industry is beyond me. I am a student and my parents have had to pay over ten thousand pounds in the last two years for my education, much like many others in Britain today. We complained about this and as a result of the Cubie report are to see the abolition of tuition fees in Scotland. However, we will not be receiving any money back from the Government, unlike the farmers. Of course it is an atrocity for the farmers, but we all live in fear of our houses burning down or being blown apart by a hurricane, so we pay insurance.
AH, Scotland

Farming in this country is not economically viable as an industry. We would be better served importing from poorer farmers abroad. This would not only help those poorer communities but would also mean cheaper prices at the supermarket for the British shopper. Farmland should be converted to wildlife reserve and this would result in less whinging from our spoilt farmers and less taxes for us to pay.
Iqbal Khan, England

The Government should tax meat and dairy products to claim back the money spent on compensating farmers. This would at least help bring the price of meat in line with the true cost of producing it.
Mark, UK

Farm subsidies maintain food production

Adrian Crane, UK
I think that people forget too easily that during WWII the UK could barely feed itself due to the U-Boat blockade. Farm subsidies maintain food production. If too many people leave the farming industry then the reliance on imported food could become dangerous. Of course, such circumstances will never come about again, will they?
Adrian Crane, UK

Lisa, I don't think comment like that are terribly helpful. Still, no doubt you know better than the Government's Chief Vet! Farmers should be entitled to compensation. Farming isn't like any other business. We get more than just food from it we get countryside stewardship and that is a benefit we should all be prepared to subsidise.

All I see is the farmers being the first out of the blocks when it comes to complaining about petrol and their industry. I didn't see them supporting the steelworkers or any of the struggling manufacturing industries at the moment. Why do they think they are so special? I've never seen a poor farmer, but I've heard a lot of old Tory views from them - they want something for nothing and need to stop being so self important
Aidan Worsley, UK

Why should the taxpayer be liable for footing the bill? Farmers should be adequately covered by insurance in the same way as any other business has to be, which is after all what farming is - a business and not a charity. If your house gets burned down, would you expect to get compensation from the taxpayer? It just goes to show that all this compensation business has got completely out of hand but this time at the taxpayers' expense.
Jacky, UK

The reason so much compensation is needed is because the Government's handling of foot-and-mouth has been severely flawed from the outset. You can't expect people to insure themselves against incompetent government. No insurance company would take that one on.
Lisa, UK

See also:

05 Aug 01 | UK
Farmers claim 1m payouts
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