DEFRA funding cuts in Somerset

FARMERS in Somerset could soon be feeling the affects of funding cuts announced by DEFRA this week, according to the county council.

FARMERS in Somerset could soon be feeling the affects of funding cuts announced by DEFRA this week, according to the county council.

Leading members of Somerset County Council have warned The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has cut the area's budget by 12 per cent, the equivalent of £30,600.

Functions affected by the cuts include a reduction in disease control work, a reduced presence in places that diseases are likely to spread such as markets and slaughter houses, a reduction in checks on cleansing and disinfection of livestock vehicles and a reduced ability of the council to respond to an animal disease outbreak in Somerset.

District councillor Liz Scott, one of the organisers of Axbridge farmers' market, said: "It is disappointing the Government is cutting budgets again. The effect is passed down to local businesses. I don't think it will have a strong affect on the farmers' market as it is self-regulating, but the effects will be felt in the area."


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A spokesman for the county council said: "Somerset is facing one of the largest cuts in the country at a time when foot and mouth disease, bluetongue and tuberculosis continue to threaten Somerset's farming community."

In April Somerset was promised a budget by DEFRA of just over £255,000.

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A DEFRA spokesperson said: "We are working with Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to address this problem. Unfortunately local authorities have for several years had difficulty in forecasting how much money they will need.

"We recognise the difficulties, but this year's shortfall is in large part a result of historically inaccurate forecasting by local authorities. The suggestion that there has been 'a funding mistake by DEFRA' is not correct."

But there is some good news for farmers in Somerset. The foot and mouth export ban has now been eased and EU restrictions on meat have been relaxed. The EU Commission is now allowing meat and meat products to be exported from the South West, but not from the South East, which is where this year's outbreak started.

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