Avian influenza – how the NFU is working to support you

First published: 24 November 2022

A picture of a biosecurity sign outside a farm building

With records levels of avian influenza in the UK from 2021-22 and continuing apace through this autumn/ winter, the NFU teams are doing all they can to support members through this difficult time.

We've been working hard on behalf of members covering all aspects of AI.

The new outbreak year was declared by Defra on 1 October 2022.

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds are set to be introduced to all areas of England from 00:01 on Monday 7 November. This means that all bird keepers will be legally required to keep their birds indoors and follow stringent biosecurity measures. 

Below is a summary of ongoing activity during this current outbreak. New updates are highlighted in yellow

AI member letter template to MPs

We've produced a template letter to MPs for members to write to their local MP to highlight the challenges being faced on farm and the support needed from the government.

One to one advice for members

Our HQ and regional advisers are speaking to members on a daily basis, providing advice and support in the following ways:

  • Communication and interpretation of Defra rules and declarations
  • Member support for those with disease suspected or confirmed on their premises
  • Movement licencing advice and guidance for birds, stock and farm products and materials
  • Support for members both inside, outside and transiting zones
  • Member support for mixed enterprises caught in zones or premises subject to culling
  • Advice and guidance for members post-culling, cleansing and disinfection and compensation
  • Advice and guidance on trade, labelling and export of products
  • A roundup of AI activity through our Avian Influenza newsletter

NFU Live: AI update

We organised an NFU Live event for all NFU members on the 1 November. NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw chaired the session and was joined by the UK CVO Christine Middlemiss.

East Anglia AI meeting

Due to the unprecedented situation in East Anglia we arranged for members to speak directly to the CVO and the head of exotic disease policy at Defra, Gordon Hickman. The meeting took place on Friday 28 October. Chaired by NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw, the meeting provided members a chance to feedback on their concerns which will help shape our continued work on AI.

New online service

We have created a new AI case finder on NFUonline which allows you to find current and lifted cases of avian influenza at any particular location. It is updated with information on every new case, including the restrictions that apply in the Disease Control Zones around the infected premises.

Industry

We are a key stakeholder in regular meetings as part of the Defra AI Core Group to discuss all aspects of AI and its impacts.

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw met with the Deputy CVO on 20 October to discuss the impact of the ongoing AI outbreak.

The NFU poultry team took part in UK Poultry Health and Welfare Group call with the Chief Veterinary Officer on 20 October to discuss the current situation.

Political

We have created a briefing for MPs to outline the impact of the issues caused by AI.

Download: Avian influenza briefing for MPs

NFU President Minette Batters met with Farming Minister Mark Spencer on 20 October and discussed the current situation with AI.

We met with David Kennedy, Defra Director for General Food, Farming and Biosecurity on 26 October.

We also met with Daniel Zeichner, Shadow Minister for Defra and Labour MP for Cambridge.

Following pressure from the NFU, Defra held an AI summit on 27 October. Attendees included Biosecurity Minister Lord Benyon and Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss, BPC, BEIC and BFREPA. NFU President Minette Batters attended along with NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead, and a small number of members, each representing the different poultry sectors. We will publish any key outcomes following the meeting.

We attended a follow up meeting with Lord Benyon on Wednesday 9 November. This will be a regular meeting with the Biosecurity Minister.

The Poultry Health and Welfare Group, which the NFU is a founding member of, will be hosting a meeting with industry and government on 16 November. 

Minette Batters, James Mottershead and members of the poultry board and senior staff attended the AI roundtable with Lord Benyon, the Biosecurity Minister on 24 November. We raised member feedback on valuation and compensation turnaround times, as well as seeking clarity on secondary cleansing and disinfection rules that particularly affect seasonal turkey producers. We also sought an update on discussions with Devolved Administrations and their appetite and assessment for a GB Housing Order.

A Westminster Hall debate will take place on 30 November on the avian influenza outbreak. Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister.

Our key asks

  1. Expand the regional housing measures on a national basis to reflect the increase in the levels of risk across the country.
  2. Ensure that the government’s compensation protocol and payment scheme for premises which are confirmed with AI is fit for purpose.  
  3. Review the marketing legislation which currently provides a 16-week protection period for the marketing of free-range eggs when government housing measures are imposed.
  4. Provide support on longer term measures for the government and industry to deal with AI as an annual occurrence – i.e., research into vaccination.

Retailer

In the past few weeks, we have met with several major UK retailers, discounters and food service operators to update them on the latest activity related to AI and to understand the impacts on their supply chains.

So far, we have had discussions and meetings with, Sainsburys, Tesco, Lidl, Co-op, Aldi, KFC, Compass/Foodbuy, Morrisons and Waitrose. We will continue dialogue and to work closely with all major stakeholders as the situation continues to rapidly evolve.

Media

NFU member Tom Copas was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme on 19 October.

National Poultry Board chair James Mottershead was quoted in a Guardian story about the need for birds to be kept inside to combat AI.

National Poultry Board chair James Mottershead was quoted in Farmers Guardian about the impacts.

The media team has also been working with other outlets including Countryfile and The Grocer to highlight the impacts of AI on the sector.

Public

Our latest Countryside newsletter included advice and guidance for backyard flock keepers regarding AI. It was sent to just under 10,000 people and the AI piece was the most read news item in the newsletter.

NFU President Minette Batters’ weekly video message highlighted NFU activity on AI so far and future work.

Chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony recorded a podcast with Farmers Weekly on 21 October. You can listen here from 15 minutes: The Farmers Weekly Podcast | Bird flu restrictions

Key information on avian influenza

You can see our collection of articles on AI by visiting: Avian influenza | NFUonline.com

Where to find support

If you are looking for support on legal or technical issues, our CallFirst team is ready to help.

We also offer legal advice through the NFU Legal Panel Firms who are available to assist members with queries relating to their supply or any other contracts via the NFU’s Contract Checking Service.

Subscribers to the Legal Assistance Scheme are eligible for financial support towards the cost of using the Contract Checking Service, as well as other professional advice for disputes relating to their farming businesses.

Members who are affected by AI outbreaks are advised to contact NFU CallFirst on  0370 845 8458 where they will be offered initial advice, with the option to be referred to one of our legal panel firms for further advice as appropriate.

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