The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) animal health and welfare chair, Hugh Farrell, has slammed a the findings of a Department of Agriculture review on TB compensation levels.

According to the ‘2019 spending review into TB eradication’, conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the level of financial supports provided through the bovine TB (bTB) eradication programme as compensation should be re-examined.

The review stresses that the views presented in the paper “do not represent the official views of the department or the minister.

Options such as capping compensation levels and reviewing rates more frequently were deemed “worthy of further consideration”, according to the review.

Meanwhile, Farrell has said: “It is patently wrong to suggest the current levels of TB compensation amounts to more than the value of the animal. It is simply an incorrect calculation that does not take into consideration the overall financial impact of a TB breakdown.

Far from being overcompensated, farmers are short changed when it comes to TB compensation.

“In 2018, the contribution made by farmers to the TB eradication programme was €35.2 million. This comprises an estimated €28 million in bTB testing paid directly to private veterinary practitioners and €7 million in disease levies.”

“This 2018 figure of €35.2 million shows a farmer contribution increase of 14.6% or €4.46 million since 2012, whereas the total for On Farm Market Valuation (OVFM) and other supports such as the Hardship Grant and Income Supplement has increased by just 8% or €1.4 million during that time.

“In addition to their €35 million financial contribution, farmers also contribute a massive amount in terms of unpaid labour.

ICSA have assessed the labour costs for farmers incurred in testing cattle to be in the order of €12.5 million.

“Meanwhile, as well as the €25 million farmers paid to veterinary practitioners in 2018, department staffing costs are estimated at €28 million, all while farmer labour is valued at zero.

“The point is that no TB strategy will be acceptable or workable unless compensation is seen to be fair. If cost cutting is required, it needs to come from elsewhere.”

Concluding, Farrell said: “The TB Forum must be reconvened to examine these conclusions.”