Fitzpatrick makes first major announcement

Farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick has made one of his first major announcements in his new job by launching a new advisory group for responsibility and cost sharing proposals.

Making the announcement at the Royal Show in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, the Defra minister has set up a joint industry and government working group to advise on how best to develop the body which will oversee responsibility and cost sharing.

Fitzpatrick said: “It is vital that Defra and the farming industry work together to ensure that industry knowledge and experience is at the heart of disease control and eradication. This advisory group will give a voice to industry at the earliest stages so that the new independent body for animal health is properly focused on funding and managing disease control measures.”

Defra added the group has been established in response to calls from the farming industry for it to have a greater say in the development of animal health policy, for which the department has said the government has long been committed to.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has said it is in favour of the new body in principal if it is truly independent, but remains fundamentally opposed to cost sharing for exotic disease surveillance and preparedness.

Peter Kendall, NFU president, said: “This announcement is as a positive step towards developing a genuine partnership between government and the livestock industry. However, we now need to see some clear terms of reference for the working group. We have argued in our response that a full review of Defra’s roles and responsibilities, and most importantly for the budgets involved in animal health policy and delivery, must take place at the earliest opportunity.”