Things could be worse... we could have blue tongue as well; FOOT & MOUTH DISEASE SPECIAL.
IN the past few days there's been a lot of back patting over the way the current FMD outbreak has been handled. Certainly things have been better than in 2001: a standstill order was in place much quicker and this time abattoirs and markets are not being kept in the dark.
Even Wales' rural affairs minister Elin Jones - criticised last week for taking a three-week break - was quickly on board an Air New Zealand flight back home moments into the crisis.
But question marks remain. Should 1,200 stranded ewes have been sent up to Anglesey from the Bicester sales on Saturday night? Some of the 15 buyers who tried to reject the sheep clearly don't think so.
Identification of the two Pirbright laboratories as the source was a relief. Not only did it mean early containment is possible, this time round farmers are truly the victims and the urban ignorant can't indulge their sport of farmer-bashing.
The irony of the Pirbright leak hasn't been lost on anyone. Merial, the pharmaceutical company, is producing 300,000 standby vaccine vials in case the outbreak escalates: if it is fingered as the culprit, it will be seen to have profited from a disease it helped propagate.
The Animal Health Institute is also in a difficult position. Had the outbreak occurred next year, a government body would be responsible for a disease that government wants farmers to pay for (through its cost-sharing plans).
Much has been made of the fact that the current FMD breakdown occurred just as UK farming had recovered from the 2001 disaster. Had it really? Long before FMD re-emerged, this year was the worst for farming that many can remember.
Wales escaped most of the flooding but won't avoid its impact. Strawand animal feed prices will go through the roof. Until it secured extra supplies, Farm& Pet Place, which has three stores in North Wales, considered restricting the number of bales each customer could buy. It's bales at now selling at pounds 3.99, but price rises could be on the way.
Now there's a worry that straw, brought to Wales from England, could be carrying FMD.
Actually, it's unlikely - there hasn't been much strawmovement recently because of wet weather. And if strawwas infected, we would have had other breakdowns by now.
The real worry is the effect of the lockdown on livestock prices. The export market's gone and meat will be dumped on the domestic market. For hill farmers, who lost pounds 12 a lamb to early-season NewZealand imports, it's a disaster.
Prices can only go down once cattle and lambs are on a one-way ticket to abattoirs.
Supermarkets and processors must be rubbing their hands. Farmunions hope they will act responsibly and pay fairly. Some hope.
Next problem are the breeding sheep sales. It'll be a close run thing. Disruption to these events will send the entire sheep farming calendar spinning out of kilter.
Two FMD outbreaks and the whole system grinds to a halt. It could be worse: the Isle of Man is taking things so seriously that horseriding is banned on roads and young farmers clubs have been closed.
During a year in which the industry also lost the prospect of badger culling and Shambo brought tears to the tree-hugging public, farmers could be forgiven for wondering what else could go wrong. Blue Tongue?
This time around farmers are truly the victims and the urban ignorant can't indulge their sport of farmer-bashing
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Aug 9, 2007|
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