After the anticipated Animal Health Bill was left out of the recent Queen?s Speech, DEFRA has now given official confirmation that it intends to publish a draft version in January.
The Bill will establish a new independent body for animal health in England and marks the start of the legislative process for DEFRA?s controversial Responsibility and Cost Sharing (RCS) plans, which could see game farmers paying a new tax towards fighting outbreaks of animal diseases.
According to the Game Farmers? Association (GFA), the government?s divisive plan to introduce a levy on poults would equate to approximately 12p per bird.
There would be a mandatory insurance levy of 8p plus 4p per game bird towards the poultry sector?s research and surveillance fund. The tax would be applied each time a game bird is sold, either as a day-old chick or a poult.
A GFA spokesman told Shooting Times the timing of the Bill was due to the impending General Election: ?The Bill will behalf-baked at best. It is only two months since the government set up an advisory group to tell it, by the end of 2010, what form a new animal health body should take. Now there is to be a draft Bill within weeks. None of the livestock industries support the approach being taken. The voice of the countryside is being ignored.?
However, DEFRA has said the Bill is not expected to be complete until spring 2011, with the new body for animal health earmarked to come into being in 2012.
Rosemary Radcliffe, chairman of the DEFRA industry group set up to develop the policy, said it was necessary to start the process now to meet that timetable.
?The Bill will be subject to a long process of scrutiny. History suggests that it will go through quite a lot of change from draft to enactment and a lot of the important detail will not be primary legislation anyway,? she said.
A DEFRA spokesman said: ?As announced in the Draft Legislative Programme, the government intends to bring forward a draft Animal Health Bill, which would establish a new independent body for animal health in England. We aim to publish the Bill in early January in good time for the end of the session.?
Paul Jeavons, of Worcestershire Game Farm, produces 330,000 game birds each year.
He said the lack of game farmer representation in the DEFRA industry advisory group means the industry?s needs are being overlooked: ?We seem to be a bit of a grey area to DEFRA. Given that shooting is an industry worth £1.6billion to the rural economy, it is a disgrace that we do not have someone representing us at government level. I am nervous about the upcoming Bill. I attended a DEFRA workshop and the advisors were vague about the actual costs involved and how the RCS plans would be implemented. I am hoping this draft Bill will lay out its plans for game farmers more clearly.?
For more information on DEFRA?s responsibility and cost sharing plans, visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/new-independent-body-ah/index.htm