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BAN ON FARM BURIALS BEGINS

 PETER HALL FARMING EDITOR

09:00 - 01 May 2003
 
 From today all livestock burials on farms have been banned by the
Government - a move labelled by a Westcountry farming leader as
"absolutely barmy". The agricultural community is angry that the
European legislation was not opposed by the British Government - and
that the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs only
finalised arrangements for fallen stock collection three weeks ago.

The service, which will see Defra paying the lion's share of collection,
will not be in place for some time. In the meantime, farmers will have
to arrange for renderers, knackers and hunt kennels to pick up fallen
stock. The age-old system of on-farm burial of carcasses has been banned
to bring England and Wales into line with the EU Animal By-products
Regulation.

"As regulations go, this is one of the barmiest," said Anthony Gibson,
South West director of the National Farmers' Union. "I suppose one can
just about understand the desire of the food safety bureaucrats to have
third-party verification of the disposal of every single bovine carcass.
But sheep or pigs? What conceivable risk can there be in burying their
carcasses?"

But the NFU has urged all livestock, pig and poultry producers to
indicate their support of Defra's fallen stock subscription scheme by
the May 6 deadline. For the scheme to become a reality, the Government
requires more than 50 per cent of farmers to register their interest in
joining up. It only came about after intensive lobbying by the NFU to
ensure farmers could comply with the new rules. There will be a
three-tier payment subscription, with smallholdings paying #50 a year,
medium-sized farms #100 and larger units #200.

NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said: "We believe the scheme is the
only deal farmers are going to see that controls the costs imposed by
these regulations. We shall be looking for Defra to provide longer-term
guarantees that the scheme will operate with the subscription rates
fixed at the initial levels for at least three years."

On-farm incineration will be allowed, provided the incinerators conform
to certain standards and are approved by Defra. Animal Health Minister
Elliot Morley has said a "light touch" approach will be applied by Defra
- and Trading Standards, who have to enforce the new law - until the
Government-funded service is up and running. A pragmatic approach would
be taken during poor weather and in cases of inaccessible animals.

The sheer volume of extra livestock needing disposal will be the main
problem, particularly in sheep areas where lambing always brings an
influx of casualties. Lib-Dem agriculture spokesman Andrew George, MP
for St Ives, said: "The burial ban is simply unenforcable until the
stock collection scheme is in place. The scheme will take months to set
up. At Defra-speed it could well take much longer."