‘Any form of herd TB categorisation will become a compensation matter’

The TB Stakeholders Forum was reconvened today (Thursday, October 1) to discuss, primarily, the TB Herd History Risk Statements and Reports, which were recently issued to farmers by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Speaking after the meeting, Hugh Farrell, the animal health chairperson for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), welcomed the reconvening of the forum, but stressed that “there are many contentious issues yet to be resolved”.

Farrell used the meeting to reiterate his condemnation of the TB risk letters, saying: “ICSA made it very clear today that the issuing of these letters went way beyond what had been agreed at previous sittings of the forum.

We remain deeply dissatisfied with the way the department has essentially taken it upon themselves to bring in herd categorisation by the back door… In doing so, it has unleashed the potential for markets to be seriously distorted.

Farrell also argued that the decision to issue the letters underlined a need to reform the compensation measures for farmers impacted by TB, insisting: “Any form of herd categorisation will become a matter for compensation.

“It is not acceptable for the department to follow a strategy to change the TB regime in line with their own wishes while ignoring all the requests put forward by farmer representatives,” the ICSA animal health chair said.

The changes made have all had a financial impact on farmers, and the fact that they have been done in advance of the substantive issues around compensation being resolved is grossly unfair.

Despite these issues, Farrell did thank both Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State Martin Heydon for attending the meeting.

“Their presence underlined the critical nature of the issues at hand. It is now incumbent on them to ensure the TB Forum charts a way forward that is both effective in terms of TB eradication and sensitive to farmers needs,” Farrell concluded.