Shooting UK.

The decision was revealed recently when DEFRA published its draft Animal Health Bill in late January.

The draft Bill, which is currently undergoing a period of public consultation, dropped the controversial requirement for animal keepers to pay a compulsory insurance levy on a per-head-of-livestock basis.

The insurance plan was forecast to cost game farmers and rearers up to 8p per bird kept.

The draft Bill also put on hold, until the introduction of an unspecified future Finance Bill, the need to pay a further 4p ?health tax? levy per game bird, whether a day-old or a poult in a release pen.

The shelved plans form part of the government?s Responsibility and Cost-Sharing policy, which is intended to make the agricultural sector ? including game farming and rearing businesses ? pay for the cost of outbreaks of diseases such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease.

The principal purpose of the draft Animal Health Bill is to create a new animal health organisation.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, explained the thinking behind the plan: ?Those running the new animal health organisation would include people with experience of the livestock industry and specialists in animal and public health, so that those making a living from animals and who are directly affected by diseases can contribute to policies and decisions about animal health.?

A DEFRA spokesman last week confirmed the government is determined to go ahead with cost-sharing proposals: ?The government remains committed to cost sharing as a means of incentivising animal-keepers to take on their full responsibility for the management of animal health issues.?

The insurance levy has been scrapped following consultation with the insurance and agriculture sectors. The levy had been described as ?unworkable?.

The shadow agriculture minister Jim Paice told the Farmers Guardian recently that the draft Animal Health Bill was ?premature? given that an independent advisory group is still investigating the issue on DEFRA?s behalf.

Outlining the possibility of the proposals resurfacing under a Conservative government, he commented: ?While the Conservatives believe that cost and responsibility sharing could help the industry, we are not committed to the government?s current proposals.?

The news of the shelved cost-sharing proposals were welcomed by BASC and other shooting organisations, though a spokesman for the Game Farmers? Association (GFA) cautioned the shooting community should be alert to the reintroduction of cost-sharing proposals.

He highlighted the fact that the recently published draft Bill will establish a new Animal Health Organisation in England: ?Paying for that organisation via a new animal tax and perhaps compulsory insurance against notifiable diseases will come later in an associated Finance Bill. It seems unlikely that the first Bill can become law before a General Election and no timetable has been set for the associated Finance Bill, so there certainly won?t be a new ?poult tax? for the 2010 season. The Conservatives have said they don?t support the detail of the government?s current proposals, though they do believe some form of cost sharing for major disease costs is inevitable, so the outcome of the General Election could be significant. The GFA has always argued against the new tax and in particular the unfairness of charging it on the same bird however long it is owned and however many times it changes hands.?

Talk to other readers about the government’s shelving of the tax!