Ireland facing EU funding penalty of €1.6 million for TB programme

Ireland is facing a funding penalty of €1.6 million from the European Commission as a result of increasing TB herd incidence, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

In response to a parliamentary question on the matter from Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue, the minister said that money was also being withheld for 2018 funding as a result of reduced levels of incidence in recent years.

“As a result of consecutive years of deteriorating headline TB herd incidence, the commission has notified Ireland that it intends to withhold 10% of funding related to 2018 – the equivalent of €1 million.

“Therefore, the EU contribution in respect of 2018 is most likely to be €8.7 million as opposed to the expected €9.7 million,” the minister noted.

Continuing, he said that 2019 is likely to be the third consecutive year of increasing TB herd incidence.

This will result in a 20% EU funding penalty or €1.6 million reduction in respect of 2019. At present, these funding gaps will have to be met by the Irish taxpayer which further highlights the need for all stakeholders in the TB Programme to show leadership in ensuring TB levels are brought back onto a downward trajectory.

The minister added that he notes comments from stakeholders seeking increased rates of financial support for farmers who experience a TB restriction.

“I am acutely aware of the mental and financial challenges that face farmers who experience a TB restriction.

“While not designed to nor claiming to replace all income foregone related to a TB restriction, it is recognised that relative to other comparable jurisdictions, Ireland has the most supportive suite of financial aids in place for herdowners who experience a TB breakdown.

“Policy amendments agreed in 2015 to income supplement and hardship grants have also seen expenditure on these supports increase by over 80% at a time when disease trends have seen little change.”

The minister outlined “significant concern” at the likelihood that 2019 will be the third consecutive increase in TB rates, albeit at relatively low levels.

This means that collectively we have failed to reduce the number of farm families who endure a TB restriction.

“My view is that the focus now needs to be on eradication and on policies that will deliver this objective. This represents the greatest potential return on investment to all stakeholders and particularly to Irish farmers.”

The minister said he is willing to invest further in measures such as: extra staff resources for the wildlife team; further research on the impact of deer; engaging more closely with herdowners in blackspot areas; and engaging and intervening more closely with herds “that have a history of repeated, prolonged or sizeable breakdowns”.

“I will be launching a renewed TB Strategy in the coming weeks which aims to support farmers in the most effective way – by eradicating bovine TB by 2030,” the minister concluded.