A group of NFU members have won a landmark legal challenge against the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) in a battle over the proper compensation payable to poultry farmers affected by avian influenza.

The members, supported by the NFU, argued that APHA had wrongly interpreted the law underpinning its compensation scheme and failed to properly compensate affected farmers for birds which were healthy at the point at which it decided they should be culled.

The ruling confirms the NFU’s long-held view that the government has been applying an unlawful policy to the calculation of compensation for farmers affected by bird flu and that the right to compensation for healthy birds affected by AI 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 APHA’s unlawful compensation regime.

NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said: “I’m delighted to hear of this judgment in the High Court, which is a fantastic result for the members who brought the legal challenge, the union and its wider membership.

"The impact of avian influenza on poultry businesses really cannot be overstated; it is a ruthless disease.

"The High Court has made clear that APHA’s policy on compensation is unlawful and we now look to government to rectify the situation and pay farmers the compensation they’re lawfully entitled to."

NFU Cymru Poultry Board chairman Richard Williams said: “This is a landmark legal judgment for poultry farmers and provides much-needed clarity on the avian influenza compensation regime.

"I thank and congratulate everyone involved in fighting this challenge – it is shining example of the power of the NFU supporting its members.

"The most important thing now is that errors made over compensation are swiftly corrected."

NFU Cymru Legal Assistance Scheme (LAS) representative Hedd Pugh added: “This tremendous result is a prime example of the value of the NFU’s LAS and the support and significant financial backing it can provide for members.

“I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and expertise of the NFU’s poultry team and in-house legal department along with the fantastic support provided by NFU Panel Firm, Jacksons Law Firm and legal counsel Malcolm Birdling and Jagoda Klimowicz..”