The Environment Agency (EA) is required, in accordance with HM Treasury's guidance and the “polluter pays principle”, to recover the full costs of regulation from those it regulates. The EA has worked with the farming sector to develop a straightforward, least-cost approach for farmers. It is for the EA, as the regulator, to assess the level of effort required to meet the pollution prevention and control requirements. In parallel, my Department continues to encourage the EA to demonstrate full transparency on what costs are for. The EA is also being set targets to drive efficiency throughout the organisation and gains will in turn offset charges as appropriate.
In response to concerns raised by the industry, the EA presented a proposal on subsistence charging in February this year. The EA's proposals were accepted by the British Poultry Council as well as other intensive livestock trade associations in May. A subsistence charge of £1,471 for an existing small farm and £1,844 for an existing large farm will therefore be charged to the industry from August 2007 until March 2008, provided that the industry stages its applications over the three month application window (from 1 November 2006 to 31 January 2007).
The annual subsistence fee covers not only the EA's costs for inspections, but also the costs of providing guidance, scheme infrastructure and permit maintenance.
The Department has been working closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to improve our understanding of how Campylobacter infection develops and spreads. We have also considered effective methods of controlling the spread of this bacteria at all levels of the food chain, including controls on farm and best practice guidance in the kitchen.
For the period 2005-08, DEFRA has committed £2.65 million towards research on the control of Campylobacter and the development of intervention practices to reduce the incidence of the bacterium within poultry production systems. This includes a DEFRA/FSA joint-funded three year survey, starting in 2007, to determine the prevalence of Campylobacter in UK flocks of chicken for meat production.
A report published by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food in July 2005 concluded that the control of Campylobacter is a practical proposition in housed flocks where producers maintain rigorous biosecurity measures and high flock management standards. As a result, priority action at farm level has focused on the importance of meeting good biosecurity standards. This action reinforces wider food hygiene initiatives in the commercial and domestic food handling settings.
These research and education projects will help to support the FSA and the poultry industry in meeting their target to achieve a 50 per cent. reduction in the incidence of UK-produced chicken testing positive for Campylobacter by 2010.