Early in 2009 DEFRA held a series of 'Consultation Roadshows' around the country where officials outlined proposals for levies on livestock and animals including horses. The little publicized Public Meetings were part of a consultation process on plans for a new quango for animal health. Officials said that it planned to distribute responsibility and cost sharing for animal health among owners and keepers. The proposed levies ranged from fourpence for poultry to £4.80 for cows. The figure suggested for horses was £10.50! Reports in the Horse & Hound suggested that the plans may be 'set in stone' but with little idea of the detail or howw any scheme might work at the practical level. You can read more on the Horse & Hound website at: http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/397/282454.html
OUR CORRESPONDENT ATTENDED ONE OF THE DEFRA ROADSHOWS - HERE IS HIS REPORT, PARTS OF WHICH DRAW FREELY ON NOTES AND CONSULTATION DOCUMENTS PUBLISHED BY DEFRA.
This page updated
19th June '09,
31st October '09
and 1st July '10
The Anderson Review of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak recommended that the cost of controlling diseases should fall more on livestock keepers and those who benefit most from the prevention and eradication of exotic and contagious endemic diseases. Recently the EU has proposed harmonizing cost sharing arrangements across the EU. Farmers in some countries already contribute to cost sharing.
Government proposals to create a new Independent Body for Animal Health aim to establish a governance and funding structure for tackling animal diseases that will help to reduce risks and costs. It expects to create confidence in policies and ensure those who benefit also share the costs.
The ‘overarching aims’ of the proposals are to:
· Reduce incidence and cost of animal disease
· Ensure funding is targeted cost effectively
· Ensure animal health policies are supported by beneficiaries
· Ensure public money is only used to fund public benefits
· Improve confidence of livestock industry and others in management of disease risks
· Ensure farmers and livestock industry can create incentives to reduce costs and risks of disease
Building on various consultations in 2007 and other events since 2000, the consultations of 2009 will lead towards preparation of a draft Bill for publication in 2010. New arrangements are unlikely to be in place before 2012.
It is proposed that the new Independent Body will be either a Non-Ministerial Department or a Non-Departmental Public Body. (An NMD is a Government Department with civil servants and led by an independent Chairman and Board as e.g. the Food Standards Agency or the Forestry Commission. An NDPB is not a Government Department and operates at arm’s length from Ministers. They are not Crown bodies and are not staffed by civil servants. Examples include the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, Environment Agency and Natural England.) The board of 8 – 10 part time independent people governing the new body will have an understanding of the livestock industry, animal health science, public health and public sector management. It will consult, commission and take account of scientific advice and the opinions of a wide range of interests.
The cost-sharing element of the new proposals is based on an annual levy. This would contribute to the costs of the new board and funding for its activities, including 50% of exotic disease surveillance and preparedness. The levy would apply to livestock according to perceived risk factors.
The levies presently being suggested are:
· Dairy - £4.80; Beef - £1.20; Alternatively a ‘Combined Cattle' – £2.50
· Sheep - £0.09; Pigs - £0.82; Poultry - £0.04
· HORSES - £10.50
The current phase of the consultation process (which runs until 30th June '09) asks a number of questions including:
· Should there be a threshold for the number of animals kept, or a minimum levy?
· Should horses, other species (e.g. goats, farmed deer, bison, llamas) and companion animals be subject to the levy?
· How can registration be made effective?
· Should there be a single rate for cattle?
· Should there be a compulsory insurance requirement for exotic disease outbreak costs?
The consultation process featured a number of ‘roadshows’ and your SCBC correspondent attended the last of these which was held on 9th June at Stourport.
With several Defra staff in support, the meeting was chaired by Helen Browning OBE who runs a 1300 acre organic farm in north Wiltshire. Ms Browning is also chairman of Defra’s England Implementation Group for Animal Health and Welfare. Following an opening presentation a lively discussion ensued reflecting the interests, doubts and concerns of the participants most of whom were either livestock farmers or horsekeepers. The differences between the two groups were marked. Farmers for the most part had large numbers of animals and an established system of registration whereas most of the horse people had either one or just a few animals. It was stated that there were many unsatisfactory aspects of horse registration with many different registering bodies and an easy black market in passports. The questions outlined above were discussed but not resolved. In addition several other questions remained unanswered. In the end we were still left wondering -
· Why create a new quango when Defra already exists? Staff for the new body would largely be drawn from existing Defra staff.
· How the suggested tariff of levies was worked out, particularly with regard to horses.
· Will there be a threshold with keepers of just one or a few animals exempt from the levy?
· Will there be a distinction between ‘farmed’ and ‘pet’ or ‘companion’ animals.
· Implementation of the levy ‘to share costs with beneficiaries’ does not explain why animal keepers should have to pay toward eradication of a disease allowed into the country through say lax border controls or some other cause beyond their influence. Supermarkets might ‘benefit’ from eradication of blue tongue disease – should they pay?
· At the distinction between ‘exotic’ and endemic diseases.
· Why press ahead until we know more of EU intentions?
With cross-party support, there seems no doubt that the proposals will be implemented but the consultation roadshow revealed that a great many questions on the mechanisms of implementation remained unanswered or simply had not been addressed. A cynic might ask whether the consultation process was designed to find answers or identify dissension!
Further details can be found via: http://www.defraweb/animalh/ahws/sharing/index.htm
email: [email protected] Telephone: 0207 238 4953
Subsequently, matters entered a new phase with DEFRA setting up a working group with the Farming Industry. An article in 16th July 09 issue of Horse & Hound carried a full report. (A 10 Downing Street Petition mentioned in the article closed in September '09.)
There was also a website devoted to opposing the equine taxation called, appropriately, Re-think the Horse Tax. This included a link to a 10 Downing Street petition started by Jonathan Wade of the British Horse Industry Confederation. When the petition closed on 6th June 2010 it had attracted 12911 signatures!
An article in the AHT/BEVA/DEFRA Equine Quarterly Disease Surveillance Report Vol 5/2 highlighted the latest stage in proposals for new legislation on 'Responsibility and Cost Sharing' In January 2010 Defra published a draft Animal Health Bill for consultation. This listed several important provisions including a new 'Animal Health Organization' to take over certain functions from Defra. One intention was that all 'keepers of disease susceptible species should share the cost of survelleince and preparedness for exotic disease outbreaks'. They cited as examples in the equine sector the recent cases of Equine Infectious Anaemia and the development of an African Horse Sickness strategy.
To view the article click on http://www.aht.org.uk/pdf/equine_vol5_4.pdf and scroll down to page 7. If you would like to read the proposals and for further information on the draft Bill go to the Defra website http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/policy/animalhealth/sharing/ahbill/index.htm The deadline for public response to the proposals passed on 19th April 2010.
In the Summer of 2010, with a new Coalition Government in office, there came an announcement that a 'new approach' would be developed to strategies for Responsibility and Cost Sharing in animal health. As outlined above, previous proposals relating to RCS including a 'Horse Tax' had raised widespread concern and opposition led to two 10 Downing Street petitions. The first, to scrap plans for a horse tax, started by Natalie Marks, attracted 5677 signatures. The other one started by Johathan Ware of the British Horse Industry Confederation, which called for a Government re-think on plans for additional charges on horse owners, had 12911 signatories. HMG issued the following statement:
"Concerns have been raised by horse owners and the horse industry about the previous Government’s proposals on Responsibility and Cost Sharing (RCS), particularly the establishment of an independent body for animal health. The previous Government’s proposals will not be taken forward by the Coalition Government [which is] committed to investigating ways to share with livestock keepers the responsibility of preparing for and dealing with outbreaks of animal disease. Jim Paice, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, met Rosemary Radcliffe, the independent Chair of the RCS Advisory Group, of which Tim Morris of the British Horse Industry Confederation is a member, earlier this month. The Advisory Group will report their findings to Ministers in December 2010. The Coalition Government will draw closely upon the Group’s advice in developing a new approach to RCS."
To see details of the petitions click on http://www.hmg.gov.uk/epetition-responses/petition-view.aspx?epref=ntht09 and