The 20-day standstill proposal for livestock put forward by Government is a knee-jerk reaction to foot and mouth, says the NFU.

Responding to a consultation on the plan to introduce the standstill following movements of sheep and cattle, NFU President Ben Gill said: ” The proposal has not been thought through properly. It would put the industry in a straight- jacket.

“We agree that we cannot go back to where we were before foot and mouth but we need a well thought out package of measures to improve biosecurity.

“In addition, we must remember that the virus was brought into the UK from abroad and more attention also needs to be given to improving controls on meat and live imports.”

The NFU says it agrees that the arguments for relying on electronic tagging for sheep are now indisputable. It accepts it has benefits in terms of improving traceability and that it could speed up the resumption of exports.

Ben Gill added: “Electronic tagging should form part of the longer term strategy. We cannot rely on a 20-day movement ban that will unnecessarily dislocate the industry.

“It would, however, be a big job and the costs are such that the arguments for Government paying are clear.”

He said consideration should also be given to the registration of livestock dealers and collection centres.

“We will be taking up all these issues with Defra at the earliest opportunity.”