Focus must be firmly kept on eradicating TB – and “repeated efforts” to move away from this primary focus is a concern, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe stressed that both compensation and the impact on individual farmers are hugely important and must be addressed within the programme – but the overriding priority has to be the eradication drive itself.

Continuing, the deputy president said we were already in danger of repeating the mistakes that had hobbled every effort made over the last 70 years in addressing the problem of TB and cost farmers millions of euros to no avail.

We have to start with the aim of eradicating TB; that has to be first thing on the to-do list and we have to rapidly reduce the number of farmers who are impacted by a TB outbreak – the focus and effort has to be kept on that.

ICMSA has brought forward a number of proposals which it believes will be effective in reducing and eradicating TB.

Such proposals include addressing: the wildlife issue; inconclusive animals; and addressing chronic TB herds.

However, the deputy president stressed that it has only agreed to support these changes on the clear prerequisite that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine adequately supports farmers experiencing a chronic breakdown and with inconclusive animals.

We must see the woods from the trees and that means eradicating TB. The scheme is costing farmers millions of euros annually and it is simply not sustainable to continue this programme for another 70 years – even the department must acknowledge this.

“We have recommended several times that funding should be frontloaded to maximise the impact of these new measures,” McCabe added.

“If we really go hard, effective and determined on eradication then the incidents around compensation and impact on farmers – traumatic as they are – will fall in step with the reduction of TB outbreaks as the measures work their way through.

“We have to decide whether we are in earnest about eradicating TB and give that aim the focus and funding it needs or whether we stick with the current system, test for another 70 years, spend probably billions – and find ourselves no further on than today.

ICMSA thinks that the danger of losing focus on eradication, as has happened so many times in the past, is that you practically guarantee more cases, more outbreaks, more cases of inadequate compensation and more cases of mental trauma on unfortunate farmers.

“We need to get serious on this issue, implement measures that will be effective and properly support impacted farmers,” McCabe said.

“We’ve made concrete proposals on that whether it’s in relation to inconclusives or chronic herds.

“We’re absolutely aimed at eradicating TB while ensuring that farmers are properly supported both financially and otherwise.

“But it’s eradication that should be the focus of everyone, particularly the department,” concluded McCabe.