The View from Northern Ireland: A Government-industry strategic partnership to develop a long-term strategy to eradicate TB from the cattle population in the North has been announced by Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill this afternoon.

The new partnership is set to be in place by the end of the year. “Eradication of TB is a key priority,” the minister said.

“I want this strategy, which will be jointly owned by Government and the industry, to be all-embracing and address all the issues such as TB compensation; improving biosecurity; improving communications with farmers and vets; and developing our ability to address the wildlife factor. The strategy should also seek to re-energise relationships with all industry stakeholders; consider as appropriate the enhancement of primary and secondary legislation; and consider other means to tackle and eradicate the disease.

“I do not want to pre-empt what will be in this long-term strategy, but I do want to be in a position to support and help implement the various elements. To this end my officials will be trying to ensure that everything is put in place to support any proposals which may come forward.”

In addition from 1 January 2014 cross-compliance penalties will be applied to one per cent of herdkeepers selected for inspection when their annual TB herd test is overdue by one month, rather than three months at present.

On the current, Test and Vaccinate or Remove wildlife intervention research project the minister reported: “Good progress has been made on the badger sett surveying in the selected areas to date. Subject to approval of the associated business case and securing the necessary licences and funding required, the actual TVR fieldwork will begin in mid-2014.

“I must stress that TVR is an intervention research project and, as such, it is not possible to pre-empt the outcome. However, the evidence produced by this research should be able to provide us with an indication of how effective TVR could be as part of a longer-term TB eradication strategy.”

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