IFA National Animal Health Chair TJ Maher said farmer’s anger and frustration is growing with the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and his Department at the lack of progress in addressing critical issues in the TB programme.
He said despite increased funding provided over the past two years for the Wildlife Control Programme little or no progress has been made in providing the additional staff promised to implement the programme on the ground.
The IFA National Animal Health Chair said not only have the Department failed to provide the additional resources committed to the programme it is actually currently under staffed with large numbers of vacancies remaining unfilled.
“It is infuriating to farmers when they hear the Minister talk about difficult decisions and threaten more controls when he and his department are failing to implement the current programme in a cohesive and effective manner throughout the country,” he said.
He said at the TB Forum meeting on the 24th October the Scientific Working Group presented a view on the potential of a regional approach to eradication of TB. This was rejected by the Forum as it had been by IFA in our bi-lateral meeting with DAFM a week earlier.
This opinion had been sought by DAFM from the SWG and represents nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention away from their failings to implement a cohesive, effective and efficient TB programme on the ground.
TJ Maher said if the Minister and his officials are unable to implement an effective Wildlife Control Programme and provide the necessary staff resources, they need to be honest with farmers and set about looking at alternatives that can deliver the programme in the manner necessary to reduce TB.
“We were continually told how well the Wildlife Programme was being implemented since it commenced in 2002, yet when DAFM finally agreed to resurvey capture areas an additional 3,000 sets were identified within existing capture areas in the first few months of resurveying,” he said.
The IFA National Animal Health Chair said we effectively had DAFM officials walking past active setts within capture areas and taking no actions and all of this signed off as acceptable by senior DAFM officials with responsibility in the area.
“Farmers have never been shy about taking hard decisions, we do this every day on our farms and when taken we implement them. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Department of Agriculture, key decisions have been taken over the past four years in the TB Forum and commitment’s given by the Minister but we have yet to see these on the ground, in particular staffing and implementation of the wildlife programme,” TJ Maher said.
He said the Minister and his officials would contribute a lot more to reducing the levels of TB if they focused on delivering an effective wildlife control programme rather than cheap words and diversions of meaningless reports while they fail to implement the most basic but yet most important element of the programme.
“The Minister for Agriculture has provided an increased funding allocation to the Wildlife Control Programme which includes an additional 26 FRS operatives. Not only have we not seen the extra operatives, vacancies around the country have led to farmers not having a programme implemented around TB outbreaks for months on end, if at all. This is unacceptable and must be addressed as a matter of urgency if the Minister is really serious about reducing the levels of TB,” TJ Maher said.