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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Brown promises help for farmers
Rare breed
Two animals at a farm in Baylham had bluetongue
The government will help farmers who are affected by bluetongue disease, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said.

After praising farmers for their resilience, the prime minister said the government would be considering the financial impact of the outbreak.

The government's deputy chief vet had earlier said there would be no compensation for farmers whose livestock were hit by the disease.

Mr Brown said there were now 11 cases of bluetongue disease in the UK.

He said the government would do all it could to "contain, control and eradicate" the outbreak.

The PM said Environment Secretary Hilary Benn would be consulting the farming industry over coming days on the financial implications of the outbreak and would look at what actions the European Commission could take to help.

Confusion

He said Mr Benn would make a statement about what the government could do to relax regulatory requirements on the farming industry to make things easier for them.

Rachel Carrington, of the National Farmers' Union in East Anglia, said there were "a number" of potential bluetongue cases being investigated, and "unconfirmed cases" in Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and the East Midlands.

She said the outbreak had left farmers confused.

"We desperately need things clarifying so we can tell people what they can and can't do," she said. "We need a detailed map of the movement restriction boundaries.

The events this summer have put livestock farming in a really difficult position
Peter Kendall
National Farmers' Union president

"Economically, things are very difficult for farmers. On top of foot-and-mouth, bluetongue is just another layer of pressure on them."

Mr Brown also announced that a 24-hour phone and internet service had been set up to keep farmers up-to-date on the latest developments.

The president of the National Farmers' Union, Peter Kendall, told BBC News his members needed government help.

"Now I generally try and give a really positive view of farming but the culmination of the events this summer has put livestock farming in a really difficult position," Mr Kendall said.

"And I think the government should find a way of helping those most at need."

No cull

Earlier, deputy chief vet Fred Landeg said movement controls would cost the industry tens of millions of pounds.

But he said there would be no compensation payments because no more culling would take place.

A protection zone has been set up in Suffolk after government vets confirmed bluetongue disease was circulating in the UK and was classed as an outbreak.

The zone will be a minimum of 150km (93 miles) around infected premises.

A stricter 20km control zone has also been set up around the known bluetongue cases, with restrictions preventing animals being moved out of both zones.

Mr Landeg said test results had shown the disease was being transmitted by biting midges "rather than animal to animal". This meant a cull would not help stamp it out, he said.


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