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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Farmer's diary: Foot and mouth scapegoats
Warwickshire farmer Adam Quinney reacts to accusations that UK farmers are ripping off the government with huge compensation claims.

Media reports of multi-million pound compensation deals for farmers have raised questions in some people's minds that farmers are ripping the government off. The tone of some of the reports has been totally unbalanced.

Some of the destroyed herds and flocks have been very well known to me, not because I knew the farmers personally but because I have seen their stock at the Royal Show and marvelled at the quality.

These animals have sold for many thousands at breed sales, it is not uncommon for some breeds of sheep to have rams sold for more than 30,000 each.

Long-term investment

Commercial cattle farmers, such as ourselves, have a great amount of money invested in livestock.

Each winter we feed 300 cattle for finishing. These are bought, with the help of the bank, in the autumn for 500 each and sold in the spring for around 700.

If we had contracted FMD in March, the total value of our stock on the farm would not have been far short of 300,000, yet we are not a large farm.

In the north of England there are some long established farms that have built up their businesses over a number of years, if not generations.

I was not surprised that some farmers had received six figure sums for their livestock

Adam Quinney
So I was not surprised that some farmers had received six figure sums for their livestock. A similar figure as some footballers receive for their testimonial game, except that the farmer has to pay tax!

Please remember that no farmer volunteers to get FMD, no farmer volunteers to have his stock slaughtered as part of a disease control measure, in the same way no one would volunteer to have their house demolished to make way for a new motorway.

Insurance difficulties

I tried to get a price today for FMD insurance and was told that no policies would be issued, and in the future the premiums would go up at least ten fold.

More importantly they would only want to return to FMD insurance if they felt that the government would make a serious effort to stop the disease coming into the country again.

This is the crux of the insurance debate, the government has the responsibility of stopping the disease coming into the country. They failed on that count and it is their responsibility that FMD spread like it did. Of course there is no reason why the government could not take out insurance themselves.

They were told by many people within the industry to stop all movements of livestock as soon as the outbreak occurred, instead the government delayed.

If they had listened to this advice we would have cut down dramatically the number of cases that we had.

It strikes many farmers that the government is trying to muddy the waters before any inquiry starts

Adam Quinney
This was the first but by no means the first time they ignored advice from the industry.

In our own case the inability of the Ministry at the time to think sensibly about movements of livestock, meant that we had to have hundreds of animals slaughtered on the farm. We found out to our cost that it is very difficult to reason with a headless chicken.

Mistakes have been made by all involved in the continuing FMD disaster. Vets, farmers, local authorities and national government, but livestock farmers who are now trying to farm through the red tape are becoming increasingly angry at the government's stance over FMD control.

It strikes many farmers that the government is trying to muddy the waters before any inquiry starts. Should we be surprised?

See also:

05 Aug 01 | UK
Farmers claim 1m payouts
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