DEFRA’s latest offering, The Responsibility and Cost Sharing (RCS) scheme, or the “Bird Tax”, will sadly come as no surprise to many. In my opinion, the proposals will only result in more importation of eggs, chicks and poults from abroad.

We must not forget that there is ever-increasing public ill feeling towards farmers (and banks) being bailed out and subsidised by the Government. The cost for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to UK farmers is substantial, and it will not go down well if the public has to fork out again to clear up a major health problem within the livestock industry. Quite how the RCS would be managed and policed is beyond me, but I would have thought that there must be a simple way of chipping a percentage or two off CAP payments to cover the costs of the RCS.

Once again, it seems that the Government’s idea of curing a problem is to throw millions of pounds at it from the wrong end. Time after time the Government does this and it never seems to learn that the grass roots management has to be in order before other steps can be sensibly taken. Far better than the madcap scheme of the RCS would be, in the first instance, properly to police and implement all of the current rules and regulations that are in place. This alone would greatly reduce any real or imagined disease threat. The Poultry Health Scheme has been around for years and it could and possibly should be quickly changed to accommodate game production. It could easily cater for many of the aims of the RCS.

Due to reduced sales, game rearing is struggling. Add to this possible further costs of future regulation and possible bans that may come in under the forthcoming code of rearing, and we may see many more rearing businesses
collapse. If the RCS does go through at 16p per bird, as has been reported in Shooting Times (News, 28May), it would destroy many businesses. An average gamefarm producing 100,000 birds will incur an added annual cost of £16,000. This includes a mandatory insurance cost. This cost would be difficult, if not impossible, to pass on to customers and could encourage more intensive game production in the UK (which in my view is not the way we should be seen to be going) and force producers to cut inputs, capital investment and corners. This is the top of a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to an increase in disease problems.

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