Rory Champions Lead Health Status for Cumbria at NFU Conference
Rory pressed for a radical change in approach to animal health, including annual testing for bovine TB, and a new Cumbrian pilot in an address at the NFU Conference in Birmingham on 22 February.
The comments were made during a discussion on the future of farming, talking alongside parliamentary colleagues Jamie Reed MP and Tim Farron MP. The discussion included the challenges facing young entrants to the industry, the importance of developing training opportunities and better mobile and broadband infrastructure to underpin sector growth. Rory Stewart focused particularly on gaining lead-health status for Cumbria.
The local MP, who represents the top-ranking English constituency in terms of its upland coverage, size, sparsity, and its milk-field, spoke passionately on the future of Cumbrian farming and the importance of securing Cumbrian breeding stock and building customer confidence in Cumbria’s agri-exports. He proposed a raft of measures to bolster the county’s health status, including immediately establishing a base level of health through testing of all Cumbrian herds for bovine TB, BVD (bovine viral diarrhoea) and Johne’s Disease, and a longer-term plan to introduce pre-and post-movement testing for all cattle movements into Cumbria and better dissemination of test and movement data at auction marts via a real-time online stock database.
Rory said: “The long-term future of farming will rely on bold reforms in animal health and exports. We must secure the future of our breeding stock not only for the peace of mind of Cumbria’s farmers, but also to strengthen the potential for agri-exports abroad. I will be pushing very hard for Cumbria to achieve lead-health status as soon as possible, by adopting more rigorous measures in terms of both testing, and selling.
“Our aim is to make Cumbria entirely bovine TB-free. This is a great time to be doing it – Secretary of State Caroline Spelman and Minister for Agriculture Jim Paice understand the industry very well and are very open to new ideas from farmers. Their sympathy for farmers is clear in all their recent reforms, from reducing regulations to introducing the grocery adjudicator.
“MPs can support in many ways. I have been pressing for better mobile coverage and superfast broadband to Cumbria’s farming communities, to ensure that businesses can grow. We are making real progress in relaxing planning laws so that younger farmers are able to adapt farm buildings for affordable housing. We need to do more work on rural apprenticeships, recognising the fact that young farmers require a number of skills. And I would like us to put far more emphasis on agricultural exports – particularly to the Middle East and China. But at the heart of this must be a healthy herd – ensuring we are never devastated, in the way so many parts of the country have been, by endemic bovine TB. Cumbrian farmers should take the national lead on annual testing, and I will be calling on the government to support a pilot.”