TB risk letters to lead to ‘untold damage’ – Fitzmaurice

The decision by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to issue farmers with TB Herd History Risk Statements and Reports will “lead to untold damage”, according to one TD.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said that there are “huge questions to be answered” over the letters, claiming: “One would have to wonder if the department decided to sneak this is in without a minister at the helm and without sufficient consultation with farm bodies.

“I understand that members of the TB Forum were due to meet last Friday [August 28], only for the meeting to be postponed due to the ministerial vacancy in the Department of Agriculture,” Fitzmaurice said.

And yet the department was able to progress with its plan to issue these letters, which was vehemently opposed by farm organisations at previous meetings of the forum.

“Serious questions remain unanswered, particularly around data protection; the potential devaluing of cattle; the impact it could have on the mart trade; and future compensation,” the Roscommon-Galway TD argued.

He went on to claim that the department had “seemingly stabbed farmers in the back” with the move.

Fitzmaurice said: “Efforts to eradicate bovine TB in this country have been ongoing for decades and farmers have continuously played an active role in this. But yet the blame for recent increases is being placed squarely at their door, when other factors are also at play.

While we will wish the new Minister for Agriculture luck when they are announced, they must be prepared to stand up for farmers and their needs. Let’s hope [the new minister] will be from a farming background.

“At this critical juncture, farmers do not need someone who is just going to nod to senior department officials. They need someone who is going to be active and decisive when it comes to the important decisions,” he continued.

Highlighting the other pressing matters that will face the incoming minister (who is set to be announced today, Wednesday, September 2), Fitzmaurice said: “This new minister also needs to examine the imbalance in farm incomes when comparing figures for different parts of the country.

“Other pressing matters for the incoming minister include the new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy], the roll-over of GLAS [Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme] and the introduction of a new environmental scheme,” he concluded.