The IFA Chairman Bert Stewart said the decision by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to increase the fees charged by the Regional Veterinary Laboratories in order to align them with the increased knackery disposal cost of fallen animals is short-sighted and displays a lack of joined-up thinking by the Department.
Mr Stewart said early detection of on farm disease issues is crucial in reducing the impact and cost and the RVL structure is vital and ideally placed to play a key role in this area. Animals or samples can only be submitted to a RVL under the direction of a veterinary practitioner who deems it necessary in order to assist in the on-farm investigation. In this regard the assertion by the Department of Agriculture that RVLs were merely used as a cheap knackery service by farmers is not credible.
This latest move aligns the service provided by the RVL structure to that of knackeries and ignores the needs of farmers in this area. The RVL service must continue to provide an independent analytical and advice role for farmers at the long established rates. This service must be provided with the necessary resources to adapt and further improve the service to farmers as herd sizes increases and new issues arise.
The decision by the Minister to increase the fees will result in farmers not being in a position to avail of this often crucial service and could result in serious disease issues going undetected which would compound the problem for the farmers concerned and their neighbours. Bert Stewart has called on the Minister to re-visit the decision immediately and instead focus on how best the RVL service can be structured to meet the continually changing needs of farmers.