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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 06:48 GMT 07:48 UK
Farmers meet over disease costs
Farmers at the meeting in Builth Wells
Hundreds of farmers were at the meeting
Around 500 farmers have held a meeting in Powys to raise awareness of the difficulties facing the industry.

Organisers claimed restrictions imposed over the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey could have cost the sheep farming industry in Wales up to 150m.

A delegation is to meet Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones to discuss the issues raised at the meeting.

Ms Jones has already said the costs of foot-and-mouth should be met by Defra and the UK Treasury.

National Farmers' Union Cymru president Dai Davies said the assembly government does not have the money to help farmers recovering from the effects of the disease outbreak.

"All praise to them, they have been scrabbling around from outside the agricultural budget to get 6m of 7m," he said.

Sheep (library picture)
Meat exports from Wales were hit by the foot-and-mouth outbreak

"But 6 or 7m is virtually peanuts when you look at the situation in Wales and the hardships that the farmers are facing at the moment."

Rob Davies, a farmer in the Brecon Beacons, organised the meeting in Builth Wells.

"It's reached crisis point and we don't seem to be getting any answers, mainly from Westminster," he said.

"The Welsh Assembly Government have done all they can to keep foot-and-mouth out of Wales."

Mr Davies said they estimated the cost of the outbreak to the UK over the autumn was 520m, and up to 150m for the sheep industry in Wales alone.

The Welsh Assembly Government has said it has helped with 6.75m to cover the costs of the welfare slaughter of light lambs that cannot be sent over to Europe and 1m to market Welsh meat.

But the farmers were expected to call for emergency aid, a hold on lamb imports and also for more supermarkets to follow the example of Waitrose's pledges on lamb prices over the winter.

Pembrokeshire farmer Brian Thomas said before the meeting: "The biggest help would be coming from supermarkets.

'Weakness'

"We've had Waitrose pledge they are prepared to pay 2.40 a kilo live weight to farmers over the winter, and that's approximately 12 more a lamb than we're having at the moment.

"If we could get that commitment from other supermarkets, it would relieve the problem a fair bit."

Meanwhile, the UK Environment Secretary has apologised to farmers for the UK government's role in allowing foot-and-mouth disease to escape from a high-security laboratory.

Hilary Benn's department has been accused by MPs of "a lamentable piece of neglect" in allowing the virus to escape from an animal research site in Surrey this summer.

Mr Benn told the Commons Rural Affairs committee that it was a "weakness in the system" that he greatly regretted.

Official reports found that the first foot-and-mouth outbreak in August originated in the Pirbright laboratory site in Surrey - a UK government facility.



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