On 15th September 2015, the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to five written questions: on the threat to farmers of Mycoplasma Bovis, and on the financial provisions for upland farmers.
Lord Bishop of St Albans:
(1) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have evaluated the potential risk of Mycoplasma bovis to the national dairy herd and to milk production; and if not, whether they plan to do so, and within what timescale.
(2) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to raise awareness amongst livestock farmers of Mycoplasma bovis disease.
(3) To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to work with the farming industry to address the problems caused by Mycoplasma bovis.
(4) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have identified any potential risk to human health from Mycoplasma bovis.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: Through the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Government is aware of the current situation of Mycoplasma bovis in cattle in England, Wales and Scotland and has funded work on Mycoplasma species. This work is published and information about Mycoplasma bovis has been made available to livestock owners through the Cattle Health and Welfare Group and various pharmaceutical companies.
The disease has been recorded in the UK since 1974 and is more often associated with calf pneumonia than with its impact on milk production in the UK. The organism is host specific to cattle and has only ever been reported twice in man, in immunocompromised patients in both cases.
An assessment was carried out in 2010 on any links between animal Mycoplasmas and human health. The conclusion of the assessment was that human infections are very rare, but may have occurred and that the potential for human transmission could not be totally excluded.
The Minister of State for Farming, Food and Marine Environment has discussed individual cases of Mycoplasma bovis and their implications with the Chief Veterinary Officer during the course of the last twelve months, and we continue to monitor the disease.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of a further reduction in income for upland farmers on ecosystem services and landscape management.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: We have recently increased the direct payment rates for upland farmers under Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy to ensure they are distributed more equitably across all English farms. These increases will help prevent a fall in income for upland farmers following the expiry of existing support under the Uplands Entry Level Scheme.
Upland farmers are also eligible to apply for support under the new Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme, which is focused on improving biodiversity and water quality, mitigating flood risks and enhancing the landscape.
We will monitor the impact on upland farmers of these changes to Common Agricultural Policy support arrangements.