THE chairman of the independent advisory committee looking into sharing animal health responsibility and costs has said it is no done deal.

Rosemary Radcliffe said she had shared farmers concerns, particularly when the Labour Government announced a draft Animal Health Bill shortly after her group had begun work.

But Jim Paice, then shadow agriculture spokesman, had said a Conservative Government would wait for her groups report before taking any decisions.

She expects that is still the case, but intends to sit down with the new team of ministers including farms minister Mr Paice to discuss how to proceed.

Ms Radcliffe was speaking to livestock producers at last weeks Beef Expo 2010 at Hexham Mart.

Her committee the Responsibility and Cost Sharing Programme advisory group began work in October and is due to report this autumn.

It was the first time Ms Radcliffe had spoken in public about the groups work. She was frank about the "very substantial fears" surrounding the whole question of cost sharing.

She fully understood them and said Labours draft bill had only exacerbated those fears at the time her own group had questioned whether their appointment had simply been a cosmetic exercise.

But she was adamant that was not the case. She said responsibility and cost sharing had been the subject of numerous reports over ten years with no action taken.

Disappointed but not surprised, she said the blame was not down to industry representatives who had spent "time, energy and enthusiasm" contributing to discussions.

One of her groups key challenges was to restore trust between the industry and Defra.

A completely fresh start was needed. "A lot of water has gone under a lot of bridges and reflects itself in many ways, including the lack of trust," said Ms Radcliffe.

One way to restore that trust was through a robust analysis of costs and benefits.

"We are trying to get a handle on what is being spent in all these areas," she said.

"It is the first time this has been done, but it is absolutely fundamental. You cannot discuss sharing responsibility or costs without numbers to have reliance on it is basic and fundamental."

Ms Radcliffe appealed for farms big and small to provide information that could be used as case studies for the report.

Cumbrian farmer John Geldard, who runs the successful Plumgarth Farm Shop, near Kendal, and operates a food hub for Asda, invited Ms Radcliffe to his farm.

He said: "We have between 18 and 25 inspections and audits each year at a cost to us of £25,000 to £30,000. It is massive, there is far too much duplication."