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NFU joins legal action challenging AI compensation

THE NFU has said it will support a group of members challenging the government’s interpretation of avian influenza compensation.

Members of the farming union have decided to bring a case against the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), arguing that compensation paid to farmers hit by AI is insufficient.

See also: Four things learned from EFRA’s avian influenza hearing

According to the union, an argument will be made that the current framework for compensation is leading to “substantial shortfalls” in payments to farming businesses following an outbreak of AI.

Compensation, as set out in the Animal Health Act 1981, is currently payable on healthy birds remaining after AI is confirmed on a farm.

In practice, that means the APHA makes its assessment of the disease status of affected birds based on clinical inspection and veterinary judgment shortly before culling begins, and bird numbers are taken from birds that are culled.

Compensation

The timeframe recently changed, with the APHA saying it would pay compensation from the outset of planned culling rather than at the end – in effect 48 hours from when AI was confirmed on a poultry farm.

But many in the poultry sector have argued this move does not go far enough, as afflicted flocks often experience extremely high mortality before the 48-hour point is reached.

The NFU’s poultry board chair James Mottershead said: “The members bringing this case argue that the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has misinterpreted the legislation on compensation paid to poultry farmers affected by avian influenza. This is leading to substantial shortfalls in the payments being made.

‘Emotional strain’

“The financial implications of avian influenza are huge, and the emotional strain on affected farmers and their families is devastating, with many now forced to re-consider their future. This is the worst outbreak of the disease in the UK to date, with no end in sight. We need this matter resolved as soon as possible.

“This case could have far-reaching implications for other NFU poultry members and that is why the NFU has decided to become an interested party in this case, enabling us to submit our own evidence in support of our members. The NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme have also committed to providing significant funding to support the members bringing the claim.”

The APHA said it could not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.