The TB Stakeholder forum has been criticised as a “vehicle” for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to impose its views, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Pat Farrell, the association’s animal health chairperson, claimed that Minister Michael Creed had “failed to deliver on the key objectives of involving stakeholders”.

“The forum has merely functioned as a vehicle for the department to impose its views, while continuing to ignore the voice of farmers, who are the single largest contributor to TB eradication,” he argued.

According to Farrell, farmer costs in the TB Eradication Programme have increased by 15% since 2012, while the costs for others have reduced.

According to figures quoted by the IFA, direct farmer contributions since 2012 increased to around €35.2 million, while in the same time period, the department’s contribution fell marginally to €45.5 million and EU financing dropped to around €9.7 million.

Farrell said that these figures represent a drop in funding from the department and the EU by 1% and 12% respectively up to 2018.

He added that representatives for Minister Creed ruled out any increase in compensation to farmers to offset the costs under the programme, which Farrell said “prevented any meaningful progress” in the forum.

This approach clearly shows the lack of appreciation and understanding from the minister’s officials of the impact that controls are imposing on farmers and their families.

He called on the minister to clarify his views and to confirm if his own views are consistent with those of his officials.

Farrell concluded his remarks by saying: “The TB burden has gone on for too long and eradication must be the objective, but this cannot be attained by the usual department simplistic approach of just tightening controls on farmers and increasing the cost burden.”

The forum reconvened this week on Tuesday, June 25. Apart from the IFA, other farmer groups include: the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA); and Macra na Feirme.