TD warns ‘compromises will have to be made’ at TB Forum

The TB Forum is set to reconvene tomorrow (Thursday, October 1) in a digital meeting involving agri-sector stakeholders, with the Herd History Risk Statements and Reports sure to be a highlight of the discussion.

Ahead of the meeting, one TD has warned that ‘compromises will have to be made’ in order for stakeholders – including farmer organisations and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – to move forward.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice called on Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, to “repair relations and actively consult farm organisations” at the meeting.

The department’s recent decision to issue farmers with TB record letters damaged its relationship with farmers and farm organisations alike due to the apparent lack of consultation.

“It appeared as if the department rushed through the decision to issue these TB letters to farmers with no minister at the helm and at a time when the last meeting of the TB forum was meant to take place – which caused a lot of consternation,” the Roscommon-Galway TD argued.

Minister McConalogue will have to “iron out these issues”, Fitzmaurice said.

He stressed: “Compromises will have to be made and constructive discussions will have to take place to determine a pathway which farmers and the department can take moving forward.

The department must be willing to recognise the funds farmers contribute to the TB Eradication Programme, as well as the hours.

“They cannot be expected to carry the can at every turn,” he concluded.

Cost

Another one of the key issues likely to be discussed is the cost of the TB Eradication Programme, and how much farmers contribute to it.

One of the stakeholder groups, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), has already said that it will oppose any suggestion that farmers fund the increasing costs of the programme.

The department is expecting the TB programme to cost around €96 million in 2020.

The funding for 2020 will be almost €15 million higher than in 2015. This increase, according to the department, is down to deteriorating disease trends since then, resulting in increased spending for compensation, testing and supplies.

ICSA animal health chairperson Hugh Farrell said last week: “Through herd testing and disease levies farmers contribute over €35 million annually to the programme.

“With less than half this figure channelled back to farmers through compensation measures in any given year, it is clear farmers already pay more than their fair share,” Farrell argued.