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Extract: there is definitely an air of newly found prosperity among all directly concerned in FMD.

The sufferers were of course small businesses and tourist enterprises, many bankrupted or on the verge of bankruptcy, with no hope of salvation and certainly no hand-outs from the Government or from charities!

Along with these were of course the dedicated farmers who took pride in their livestock. took every possible precaution to keep the disease out of their farms, refused the temptation to send livestock for slaughter on welfare grounds even if it meant turning animals out on fields which should have been put up for hay, and were brought to a complete standstill financially by movement restrictions - again, no handouts for them!

It is enjoyable to shoot down the views of Margaret Beckett and Paul Flynn, but being realistic, they have both made points which are hard to ignore. The fact is that subsidies will almost certainly end over the next decade and farmers should start to plan accordingly.

There are two possible scenarios post FMD - the first is that the markets re-open early this year and any restrictions currently imposed are lifted. Farm prices are already rising (except for milk) and the price of lamb is quite likely to enjoy a steep rise in the spring due to a shortage. Farmers will enjoy a period of prosperity, livestock numbers will escalate, everything will be back to square one and everyone will be in real trouble when the crunch comes.

The second is that farmers anticipate a change in European agricultural policies and work together to plan how to adapt to change so that they are up and running when it comes about. Diversification, an emphasis on quality livestock, better land management, and even farming co-operatives could all play an important part. Difficult though it may be to look into the future they must face the fact that farming is going to change and if they are to survive they have got to try to anticipate what the public will require of the countryside - whether is is food, increased leisure facilities, utilities (water and electricity), woodlands and so on.

My own guess is that the first scenario is the most likely! I look around me and wonder just how beneficial the FMD crisis has been. Yes, the trauma of losing their entire life's work was devastating for some farmers, but for many others it was the best thing since sliced bread. They were able to get rid of large numbers of inferior livestock at an inflated price - remember that the FMD cull and contiguous cull of six million animals is said to have been equally matched by the welfare cull - and almost every farmer in my part of the country is now driving around in a brand new Discovery. The people engaged in contract work on clean-up have invested the proceeds in new JCBs, and there is definitely an air of newly found prosperity among all directly concerned in FMD. The sufferers were of course small businesses and tourist enterprises, many bankrupted or on the verge of bankruptcy, with no hope of salvation and certainly no hand-outs from the Government or from charities! Along with these were of course the dedicated farmers who took pride in their livestock. took every possible precaution to keep the disease out of their farms, refused the temptation to send livestock for slaughter on welfare grounds even if it meant turning animals out on fields which should have been put up for hay, and were brought to a complete standstill financially by movement restrictions - again, no handouts for them!

I know that many of you will shoot me down for saying that FMD has probably proved beneficial for the majority of farmers. even in the hot-spots of Cumbria and Devon, and absolutely and without doubt throughout Wales. In my own defence I would mention that I did actually farm for a number of years (sheep) and perhaps have a slightly less romantic view of farmers than some! Tessa

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