Poultry farmers have won a landmark legal challenge against the government in a battle over the proper compensation payable to those affected by bird flu.
In a High Court judgment handed down today (19 January), a group producers, supported by the NFU, won the case against the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA).
They argued that APHA had wrongly interpreted the law underpinning its avian influenza (AI) compensation scheme.
The agency had failed to properly compensate affected farmers for birds which were healthy at the point at which it decided they should be culled.
According to the NFU, the government has been applying an unlawful policy to the calculation of compensation for farmers affected by bird flu.
The right to compensation for healthy birds affected by bird flu accrues at the point at which APHA decides that the birds should be culled, and not at the later point of culling.
Due to delays by APHA between condemnation and culling, many healthy birds became affected by avian influenza in the interim period, leading to substantial losses for producers under the compensation regime.
NFU President Minette Batters said the High Court judgment was a 'tremendous result' for farmers who brought the legal challenge, as well as the union and its wider membership.
She said: "AI is a truly devasting disease; so many farmers have suffered and are still enduring the aftereffects of the catastrophic outbreaks witnessed since 2021.
"The High Court has made clear that APHA’s AI compensation policy is unlawful, and we now look to government to rectify this wrong and to pay farmers the compensation to which they are lawfully entitled.”
NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead added that the 'hugely significant' judgment would provide important clarity on the interpretation of the AI compensation regime.
"On behalf of the poultry sector, I would like to express my gratitude to the NFU members who have fought this challenge from the outset right up until today’s fantastic judgment," he said.
"The government’s flawed approach to calculating AI compensation over recent years must be swiftly corrected as a result of this ruling.”
The NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme, which offers financial support towards legal and professional costs, funded the group of farmers bringing the claim.