On Wednesday Bill met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss flood defence maintenance and compensation payments for TB affected cattle.
It follows on from two points he made in the House of Commons chamber, the second of which also touched upon the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance to local authorities.
In the last full year bovine TB led to the slaughter of 26,000 cows in England at a cost of nearly £100 million. Currently 5.2 million properties across the country are at risk from flooding.
Speaking afterwards Bill commented,
‘This was a very helpful meeting in which I felt Owen Paterson understood the needs of my constituents.
Bovine TB is a pernicious disease which has a devastating effect on farmers and their families.
No amount of compensation can exactly make up for the emotional trauma. But it ought to accurately reflect the monetary value of any animals culled, pedigree and non pedigree alike.
Tougher biosecurity measures introduced recently may also have had unintended consequences. If so, these need to be addressed.
We discussed testing for badgers and I was hoping that the Polymerase Chain Reaction test, which we worked so hard on in opposition, still has the potential to be much more rapid and reliable than any of the current methods.
Another huge worry for people in North Herefordshire is flooding.
We all agree that everything possible must be done to prevent it from happening. Even state-of-the-art flood defences count for nothing if they are poorly or improperly maintained and that is why I wanted to hammer home the need for the Environment Agency to release rivers and tree maintenance back to Drainage Boards, along with the funding that should go with them.
For example, in Bishops Frome the Parish council warned that there were fallen trees in the water course, but the Agency did not remove them in time to prevent a flood. How much better it might have been if they had authorised their removal by a local farmer and allowed local people to help.
The Secretary of State listened carefully, as he is experiencing similar difficulties in Shropshire. How very useful to have a Secretary of State who really understands the countryside and our challenges.’