Poultry and pig farmers look to have wrung a major concession from the government over the prohibitive cost of new pollution rules.
A march on Westminster by a quarter of UK poultry farmers last week was hailed as a resounding success. Defra minister Jeff Rooker told NFU president Peter Kendall he was shocked by the cost of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control regulation. Lord Rooker said he would back calls for IPPC inspection charges to be waived for the first three years, saving poultry farmers alone an estimated £10m. They will still face compliance costs of about £14m a year, however. Pig farmers face £3.4m in charges over three years.
"We're heartened by the reaction of Lord Rooker, who I think we caught at an opportune moment. He was about to head off for talks in Brussels and said he'd give the issue top priority," said NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns.
"The march on Westminster brought home just how much pressure these fees would put on UK poultry farmers. He seemed genuinely shocked by the strength of feeling about the fees and said he'd look at the system."
Bourns, who is also a poultry farmer, calculated that the fees, for the first year alone, would add 0.5p/kg to the cost of chicken produced on his farm.
And North Wales-based poultry farmer Rikki Proffitt, who produces about 700,000 birds for Grampian each year, said he feared that without the three-year waiver he would be forced out of business.
"These fees and the cost of the additional work required to meet the regulations could close us down."
Bourns said producers also had a strong moral argument. "By refusing to apply for EU aid towards the £58m that avian flu cost UK farmers, the government has left the industry in a situation where it can't afford to pay the IPPC charges."