The Government's immediate and direct response to a request from the NFU for desperately-needed help for livestock farmers was welcomed today as sign that the gravity of the foot and mouth crisis has been recognised.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown announced the Government would apply for all of the available £152 million "agrimoney" compensation for beef, sheep and dairy farmers, arising from the drop in incomes for the year 2000.

He also said that an estimated £16 million would be taken from future budgets of the pig industry restructuring scheme for those who needed help now.

The NFU has campaigned hard for agrimoney aid - designed to compensate farmers for the impact of the strong pound - including a plea by NFU President Ben Gill at a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday.

Ben Gill said: "This is a very welcome announcement. It shows the Prime Minister and the Government have understood the severity of the plight of British farmers struggling to cope with this nightmare outbreak."

The Minister also announced that foot and mouth movement restrictions on farms will remain for a further fortnight but a scheme will be put in place as soon as possible to allow movement of animals to abattoirs or holding areas under strict controls.

The NFU has accepted the further restriction order as being necessary to limit the disease. It has also been pressing MAFF to allow limited movement to slaughter, provided it does not inhibit the efforts now being made to stop the spread of the disease.

Mr Gill said: "It is good that the Minister has announced his wish to begin moving animals under strict licenses. Farmers want to be able to continue their job of supplying the nation with British meat and limit the need for imports.

"We will be helping to draw up workable plans to allow this urgently needed transport to take place with all the proper precautions.

"However, we must stress that our over-riding priority is to do everything possible to stamp out this disease."

Mr Gill said that the NFU would still be talking to Government about what other compensation might be necessary to help farmers and the industry cope with the consequential losses of foot and mouth disease. The nature of these talks would very much depend on how long the crisis continues, he said.

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this document, the NFU cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.  This information should not be regarded as constituting legal advice, and should therefore not be relied upon as such.  NFU©