Farmers to get £168m help

1 Mar 01
The Treasury is to raid its coffers for around £137m in emergency aid for farmers as foot and mouth disease spreads across the country.

02 March 2001

The aid, taken directly from public spending, will be combined with around £31m from the European Union's agricultural fund.

Pig farmers are also expected to receive £20m from funds set aside for next year.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food told Public Finance that it still wasn't clear exactly where the £137m would be drawn from. 'The prime minister has agreed to it and the Treasury will just have to find it from somewhere. We understand that it will come directly from public spending,' he said.

The total £168m package is the maximum beef, sheep and diary farmers can expect, although Maff admitted that it could take several months for the money to come through.

The ministry also rushed emergency orders through Parliament, giving local authorities in England and Wales powers to ban the use of footpaths and public rights of way. The Scottish Executive was due to follow suit as Public Finance went to press.

National Parks were urging councils to enforce their new powers to stem visitors spreading the disease further following 24 outbreaks of the disease confirmed by February 28. Huge areas of the country will now be out of bounds to the public as a precautionary measure.

The outbreak will impose other costs on the public purse. The suspension of horseracing – initially for seven days until March 7, but likely to be extended if the epidemic does not subside – could cost the government up to £1m in betting tax revenue. Road hauliers are asking for compensation for losses of £4m a week.

Local authorities will also be expected to help limit livestock movements across England and Wales, currently banned by government order until at least March 16.

But the Local Government Association is taking the crisis as an opportunity to prove its 'leadership' role to ministers. 'How we helped handle the recent floods did an immense amount of good for the reputation of local government,' LGA chief executive Brian Briscoe wrote in a letter to chief executives. 'How we handle this crisis could provide an equally important leadership role.'


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