DEFRA budget cuts could hit farmers

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is warning farmers that they could see additional cost recovery requirements on animal health policy, following the announcement of £83m of cuts to Defra’s budget.

The NFU has said that is concerned that more costs for vaccination, testing and other aspects of animal health control, might be passed onto farmers as Defra attempts to make additional savings.

This latest £83m cuts to Defra’s 2015/16 budget come as George Osborne orders savings of £3bn across non-protected government departments in the current financial year.

These new cuts amount to nearly 4 per cent of Defra’s budget, which has already been slashed from £3bn in 2011 to £2.3bn this year – second only in its severity by proportion of budget to the Department for Transport.

A Defra spokesperson said the savings would “not affect Defra’s capabilities to deliver their important deliverables” and would be made by “identifying and stopping any low priority spend.”

Meurig Raymond, President of the NFU, pointed out the latest cuts came on top of recent heavy reductions from a budget “where there are so many demands”.

“The Department is already under-resourced and we are obviously concerned when you see a reduction of £80 million out of a budget of just £2.3bn,” he said.

“It is a fair chunk on money and any reduction is a worry as we don’t know where the axe is going to fall.

“The big concern, with so many demands on Defra, we could end up with more demands for cost recovery for animal health. At a time when the industry is suffering very badly on output values; that would be difficult.”