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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Farmers 'face winter hardship'
Sheep
There have been no new confirmed cases for 16 days
The government's rural recovery co-ordinator has warned that farmers and tourism businesses will face serious problems during the winter in areas badly hit by foot-and-mouth.

Lord Haskins calls for an extra 40m to be put into the government's business recovery fund - about half of it in Cumbria - in a report published on Thursday.

The call came as the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, announced a 24m extension to the fund for the worst affected regions.

Lord Haskins - appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair in July - also calls for special short-term compensation to be considered for farmers unable to sell their livestock outside their local areas.

Disease facts
Total cases: 2,030
Slaughtered: 3,914,000
Awaiting slaughter: 1,000

But he urges farmers and rural businesses to do more to help themselves in the longer run.

The National Farmers' Union said the report identified the breadth of support needed to charge the rural recovery, said its effectiveness would depend on how much was put in to practice, and how quickly.

NFU Deputy President Tim Bennett said: "These recommendations would help the rural economy in its efforts to re-build itself, but the need to get agriculture back into the black must remain the priority."

Knock-on effects

Lord Haskins - the millionaire chairman of Northern Foods - is well-known for his forthright views on the need for farmers to wean themselves off state handouts and become better entrepreneurs.

Many farmers have seen their businesses collapse since the epidemic was discovered last February. The knock-on effects have also been devastating for tourism.

The report says that most farmers and businesses have coped better than might have been expected.

But these industries make most money in the summer.


Next winter is going to be pretty cold, and we are really going to need some short-term measures to help us through that period

Cumbrian farmer, John Raine

So even if the virus is largely eradicated, the months of lost income will make it very difficult to make it through the winter.

Commissioned when the disease was at its height, the report focuses on foot-and-mouth blackspots like Cumbria, the South West, North East and North Yorkshire.

In Cumbria alone 3,000 farms have lost their animals and 60% of the land is without livestock, while the tourist industry is believed to have lost 200m.

Lord Haskins
Lord Haskins wants farmers to be better entrepreneurs
Cumbrian farmer John Raine told BBC News: "Next winter is going to be pretty cold, and we are really going to need some short-term measures to help us through that period.

"But we are also looking for some answers to the long-term problems agriculture is facing."

But Lord Haskins blueprint for the longer term favours removing many farming subsidies to promote a more commercial approach - even if it means fewer farmers.

He argues that once the immediate crisis is over, they must show much more enterprise and co-operation if they are to continue in business.

Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Colin Breed said the party welcomed Lord Haskins' recognition that farmers needed short-term help.

But he said the call for farmers to be more enterprising was an insult.

"Lord Haskins should look to government policy in respect of the uncompetitive pound, the lashings of red tape and the appeasement of the greed of supermarkets before criticising the agricultural industry," he said.

Lord Haskins is also calling for much greater co-operation between farmers and rural agencies.

Foot-and-mouth, BSE and collapsing farm incomes are pushing farmers towards short-term survival measures which may have longer-term implications for the environment, says the Environment Agency.

Strong emphasis should be given to natural resource-soil, water and air-conservation, the report says.

No new cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed for 16 days, but government vets are investigating a suspected new case at a farm west of Carlisle in Cumbria.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Bilton reports from Cumbria
"In the short-term the measures have gone down well"
Lord Haskins, author of the report
"The Government has already put over 2 billion into the rural community"
Margaret Beckett, Environment Secretary
explains what the money awarded will be used for
See also:

18 Oct 01 | England
Cumbria welcomes Haskins report
17 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Farm disease resurgence warning
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