The Department of Agriculture has spent €6m less on disease eradication so far this year, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.

This is as a result of reduced disease incidence and should be seen as very positive news for the sector, the Minister said.

He was speaking at a hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture today. He said the savings were mostly in the TB and Brucellosis areas where progress at reducing disease incidences has been maintained.

Last year the Budget allocation for the TB Eradication Scheme was been reduced from in excess of €60m annually to €35m, which includes €12 -14m in EU funding and €5m in farmers’ disease levy contribution, combined with the savings from the discontinuation of Brucellosis testing this year.

Recently new Department of Agriculture proposals for the future have been heavily criticised by the IFA and labelled as ‘insulting’ to farmers by its Animal Health, Chairman Bert Stewart.

Following a meeting with Department officials recently on the TB programme, Stewart accused the Department of Agriculture of failing to take account of the huge financial impact the loss of animals has on individual farms.

He said farmers are holding the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney responsible and he must immediately intervene as a matter of urgency to address the issues identified by IFA in the detailed submissions made to him.

Stewart said the proposed changes from the Department represent nothing more than a redistribution of existing programme costs, do not utilise the full budget allocation, is insulting to farmers and shows no understanding of the turmoil caused by TB episodes at farm level.