NFU attacks lack of farmer input on animal health board

THE NFU has criticised the make-up and questioned the transparency of the new body intended to give farmers a greater say over animal health policy and costs in England.

NFU president Peter Kendall, livestock chairman Alistair Mackintosh and NFU council members all expressed concern at the lack of grass roots farmer representation among the four industry representatives appointed so far to the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE).

Mr Mackintosh told the NFU council the board faced a ‘massive challenge’ as it addresses key animal health issues and Defra plans to pass ‘huge costs’ on to farmers, which could ‘drastically affect our industry’.

But he suggested the board had so far failed to fulfil its remit of giving livestock keepers a greater stake in policy and lacked transparency.

“We have concerns over experience and understanding of people on the board. There is not enough representation from people who know about the day to day running of livestock farms,” he said.

“We need some clear transparency. We need to understand what those guys are discussing and how they come to decisions,” he said.

“The board has little relevance unless it is going to be 100 per cent transparent and up front with us.”

Mr Kendall echoed his concerns, warning that the board was ‘not as open and transparent as we would have liked’. He questioned whether the industry appointees would have sufficient ‘credibility with farmers’ to be seen to be ‘doing the right things in the right way’. 

AHWBE chairman Micheal Seals said very few farmers applied for the posts. Those that did were all interviewed but none were successful. “The difficulty with the public appointment system is that you can only work with the people who apply,” he said.

He denied that AWBE lacks transparency. “I have an excellent Board of people who know the industry well and are already making a positive contribution,” he said.   

“The Board has only just begun to meet and its agenda and meetings are all published. We have two industry guests at our February Board and a workshop for key stakeholders. I can’t see how that can be anything other than transparent?” he said.

“Our intention is and always was to harness the expertise of the industry, both within and beyond the Board itself.”

Who’s on the Board?

The first non-executive members were appointed by a panel chaired by Defra food and farming director Katrina Williams and including AHWBE chairman Micheal Seals. They are:

Stewart Houston – NPA, BPEX chair.

Professor Tim Morris - director at the British Horseracing Authority.

Stuart Roberts - director at Anglo Beef Processors

Mark Tufnell - runs family farm and is chartered accountant and tax adviser.

Two further non-executive appointments, representing dairy and economics, will be announced soon.

The six non-executives sit alongside six (four from this April) Defra representatives and the chairman.

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