EXTRACT from press release

The benefits of the standstill have been endorsed by the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries into FMD which reported last month.

They emphasised the need for detailed risk assessment and a wide ranging cost-benefit analysis to take place before any substantial permanent move away from the 20-day rule could be contemplated. Industry interests will be closely engaged by Government in those further analyses over the coming months. Mr Morley emphasised that the interim regime for this Autumn was wholly without prejudice to the permanent regime. In the light of ongoing scientific and veterinary advice, the Government recognises there are risks in any relaxation of the 20-day movement restriction. However, it also acknowledges that the restriction places significant burdens on some sections of the livestock industry, particularly during the Autumn sheep breeding period. DEFRA is therefore making these limited exemptions to enable farmers whose businesses would be substantially hit by the 20-day rule, although they will have to meet the conditions and costs involved.


AUTUMN CHANGES TO THE ANIMAL MOVEMENTS REGIME Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley announced today that additional exemptions to the 20-day movement standstill will be introduced at the beginning of September as part of the next set of changes to the interim animal movement regime.

An option will be provided under which sheep and cattle used for breeding this season, which go into a strict on-farm isolation facility for 20 days on arrival, will not from early September trigger a 20-day standstill on the rest of the farm. The announcement follows recent Ministerial exchanges with the NFU and long-running working discussions with industry stakeholders, particularly the National Sheep Association, National Beef Association, Livestock Auctioneers Association and Farmers Union of Wales.

However, the 20-day standstill, which underpins the current animal movement regime, will otherwise remain in place until permanent rules are brought into force early next year.

Mr Morley said there was clear scientific and veterinary advice that the 20-day standstill remained the best way of achieving two key objectives - allowing time for the detection of any new outbreak; and slowing down the spread of any undetected disease in the period between its arrival and its detection.

The benefits of the standstill have been endorsed by the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries into FMD which reported last month. They emphasised the need for detailed risk assessment and a wide ranging cost-benefit analysis to take place before any substantial permanent move away from the 20-day rule could be contemplated. Industry interests will be closely engaged by Government in those further analyses over the coming months. Mr Morley emphasised that the interim regime for this Autumn was wholly without prejudice to the permanent regime. In the light of ongoing scientific and veterinary advice, the Government recognises there are risks in any relaxation of the 20-day movement restriction. However, it also acknowledges that the restriction places significant burdens on some sections of the livestock industry, particularly during the Autumn sheep breeding period. DEFRA is therefore making these limited exemptions to enable farmers whose businesses would be substantially hit by the 20-day rule, although they will have to meet the conditions and costs involved.

Mr Morley emphasised that DEFRA was taking the farming community on trust in making the concessions. "This concession has been offered on the clear understanding that the farming community recognises the risks involved in any failure to observe the strict isolation rules, and plays its full part in ensuring that these risks are minimised.

"Any individual farmer that breaks the conditions will lose the exemption. If we find evidence of widespread abuse, we will give very serious consideration to withdrawing these concessions which have been offered to the industry in good faith.

"These restrictions, and the conditions we are placing on exemptions, are in place to protect the livestock farming industry from the risk of another major disease outbreak. It is in the farmers' interests to ensure that the system operates effectively. We call on leading stakeholders to play their part in calling for all farmers to abide by the rules of this scheme," he added.

DEFRA believes that the majority of farmers should be able to work within the 20-day rule. Equally, the Department expects those who apply for exemptions to meet all the criteria laid down for isolation and biosecurity and to fully comply with the specified conditions.

There will be unannounced spot checks on the operation of facilities and the observance of biosecurity rules.

The Government will be discussing with the industry the scope and methodology of the detailed risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses recommended by the Inquiry reports before reaching a view on the standstill arrangements for the longer term. The outcome of those assessments will determine whether the movements regime can be further relaxed, or has in some respects to be tightened.

Mr Morley urged the farming community not to go down the road of illegal movements. "Not only would the individuals involved lay themselves open to prosecution and, if convicted, to significant fines or even imprisonment.

"But, crucially, such actions would be very much against the interests of the industry as a whole. In the event of a fresh disease outbreak, it is vital that our ability to trace movements and take action to control the disease is not compromised. If that were to happen, we would all be the losers, but particularly the livestock industry itself, and those engaging in illegal movements would bear a very heavy responsibility," he said.