THE newly installed chairman of Herefordshire's branch of the National Farmers Union this week welcomed news that the county is officially foot and mouth free but has urged more Government action on remaining restrictions.

Liz Pursey was elected into the role - the first ever woman to hold the position - at the branch's AGM on Tuesday night, less than a day after DEFRA had announced Herefordshire was officially free from the disease.

From midnight on Monday, restrictions on the movement of livestock from Herefordshire to other parts of the country were lifted but Mrs Pursey, a dairy farmer's daughter, a farm secretary and a farmer's wife for the past 20 years, said she would continue pressing for the reopening of livestock markets.

"We're hoping that it's going to be a new start for us although there's an awful long way to climb out of the recession we have had in our membership," said the new chairman, who has a dairy and arable farm between Harewood End and St Weonards in South Herefordshire.

"But we would now like to see the opening of livestock markets as this will provide the basis for trade. I think it seems it'll be in the new year."

Gordon Gilbert, a Canon Frome farmer and former chairman of the NFU branch, added his relief at Monday's announcement.

"Obviously it's the news we've clearly been waiting for," he said, although he also called for Government action on red tape left surrounding both livestock and export markets.

Although not as badly affected as some farmers in the region by the effects of foot and mouth, Andrew Perry, of Ledbury Grain Group, said the news was "splendid" and means farmers can begin getting back to normal.

"Farmers will be able to get on and move cattle around a bit better now," he explained.

Herefordshire's first case of foot and mouth was on February 26 at Llancloudy and the last on April 26 at Wigmore. In total the county had 42 confirmed cases.