DEFRA secretary Thérèse Coffey has rejected calls from MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee to improve compensation for poultry farms hit by avian influenza.

Ms Coffey said there were no plans to make further changes to how compensation was paid at present.

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MPs had written to the secretary of state in December calling for payments based on the number of birds alive in the affected flock at the point of disease notification rather than the number of birds culled.

In her reply, Ms Coffey said the compensation framework was to encourage early reporting of disease… “it is not intended to compensate for animals that will die from a particular disease”.

She then referenced changes made in late October last year to bring forward the point at which compensation is calculated to the outset of culling or within 48 hours of the decision to cull birds.

However, Ms Coffey confirmed there were no plans for further changes, “recognising the purpose of the scheme”.

Ms Coffey also ruled out further support for producers who wished to restock following an outbreak.

“In many of the recent avian influenza outbreaks, epidemiological investigations have unfortunately highlighted a strong correlation to insufficient biosecurity measures.

“While it may seem attractive for the taxpayer to subsidise restocking efforts in order to maintain supply of poultry and eggs, we must make sure there is a level playing field within the sector,” she added in her reply to the Efra Select Committee.

The NFU is supporting farmers who hope to bring a judicial review over Defra’s interpretation of the law and its application for AI compensation.