Mooted changes to TB programme ‘a significant change’

Mooted changes made by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the TB Eradication Programme have been criticised.

A move by the department to remove animals that were previously inconclusive in TB breakdowns and to deem tests where four or more animals test inconclusive as reactors “is a significant change to the programme that impacts severely on farmers”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Commenting, IFA Animal Health Committee chairman Pat Farrell said the Department of Agriculture “had shown yet again that it has no difficulty in increasing the cost burden on farmers while refusing to address the enormous shortcomings in the compensation schemes”.

This latest change to the implementation of the TB programme severely impacts on the income of farmers and was imposed without any consultation.

“This is despite claims that all stakeholders would have the chance to input into decision-making on the programme,” Farrell claimed.

The chairman said “this latest move by the Department of Agriculture is particularly disappointing” given the enormous efforts made by farmers throughout this Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the TB programme continued.

Farrell said: “Farmers have enough of the Department of Agriculture’s continual refusal to address the critical issues in the TB programme.

The new minister for agriculture will have a job to maintain farmer support for the programme if the current approach continues.

He said IFA has consistently identified critical areas around the live valuation scheme and the income support schemes that need changes to reduce the cost burden of the programme on farms.

“The Department of Agriculture is acutely aware of these issues, yet persistently refuse to carry out a meaningful costing of the changes,” Farrell added

The decision to now remove animals that were previously inconclusive and have since had several clear tests does not rest well with farmers, he warned.

While they may be eligible for existing compensation schemes, the levels of support available are only in the region of 50% of the actual loss imposed by the removal of some of these animals, the chairman added.

“The TB programme requires significant changes; the most fundamental is the need for the Department of Agriculture to recognise the enormous contribution farmers make to the programme by addressing the losses they are imposing on them through reform of the compensation schemes,” Farrell concluded.