Financial restrictions designed to discourage farmers from flouting the rules on bovine TB have been proposed by the Scottish Government.
The suggested changes are intended to safeguard Scotland’s official TB-free status and are contained in a Government consultation which closes on November 30.
Proposals include not paying farmers the full market value for their animals if they fail to abide by the regulations. A cap on all individual compensation payments has also been proposed.
As the rules currently stand compensation is paid at full market value to the owner of any animal slaughtered because of TB and this includes those animals that have moved on to a restricted herd and then go on to become TB reactors. No measure exists to reduce or withhold payment where the owner has acted irresponsibly and illegally and moved cattle onto an infected premises without a licence. The proposed amendment would provide the powers to reduce or withhold compensation in these cases.
The Government is also proposing to follow Wales in introducing a cap on compensation on individual animals which will reduce it from £15,000 to £5000 from October. England is consulting on a taking a similar step. The Scottish consultation suggests the owners of high value animals should explore insurance options to cover any value which is in excess of £5,000.
Commenting on the consultation, Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing said the Government was committed to maintaining the current low level of TB and safeguarding Scotland’s Official TB Free status.
“It only seems fair that, where a keeper has broken rules, that they should not then be able to recover the full market value for their animals that are slaughtered as a result of poor farming practices or non-compliance,” he said.
“We are therefore looking for views as to whether further measures to encourage Scottish farmers to follow good farming practices and keep diseases out of their herds is required.”
NFU Scotland’s animal health policy officer, Penny Middleton said bovine TB had bene causing high levels of concern in some regions and there had been calls from some members looking for a tightening of the rules on high risk cattle movements.
“We recognise the concerns surrounding the risk of losing our officially TB free status and it is a subject that we had already planned to discuss at upcoming committee meetings to look at measures that might be considered to help discourage higher risk activity,” she said.
“NFUS will be looking closely at the proposals and looking for feedback from our members. It is not possible to comment further until that process has been completed but we will be responding and may have some further suggestions we would also like considered.”