IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has strongly criticised the Department of Agriculture for their handling of the TB eradication programme review and discussions on the TB SI.
Bert Stewart said the Minister gave a commitment to IFA in March this year that the medication of animals aspect of the TB SI, which is completely unworkable and impractical for farmers, would not be enacted for a period of six months to facilitate discussions on the issue. Yet his officials have ignored this, imposed penalties and sanctions on farmers for non-compliance and have not held any meaningful discussion with IFA on the issue.
In relation to the compensation schemes, Bert Stewart said IFA agreed in good faith to enter into a comprehensive review with the Department of Agriculture. “However, since further detailed costings were provided by IFA in relation to the huge consequential loss experienced by farmers losing animals as TB reactors in early July, no further engagement has taken place. Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture have updated the ‘Important Information for Herdowners booklet’ which deals with all aspects of the TB programme and distributed it amongst valuers which includes fundamental policy changes to the programme which have not been discussed with IFA.”
Bert Stewart said it is not acceptable that farmer concerns on these issues continue to be ignored and commitments given by the Minister are not upheld.
IFA is calling for the immediate retraction of the updated ‘Important information for the Herdowners booklet’ until discussions on all elements of the TB eradication programme have been discussed and concluded and the immediate lifting of the penalties and sanctions being imposed on farmers under the medication of animals aspect of the TB SI in line with commitments given by the Minister and his officials.
IFA is also seeking fundamental changes to the TB eradication programme and compensation schemes in order to reduce the cost burden of the disease for farmers. These include: increased consequential loss payments, the facilitation of purchase in to restricted holdings, removal of the prohibition on treating animals following notice to test, increased ceilings in the live valuation scheme, and clarity on farmers’ liability to pay for testing.
Bert Stewart said while the huge progress in reducing the levels of TB nationally is welcome, it is not acceptable for the Minister and his officials to continually hide behind these figures and ignore the trauma and huge financial impact TB continues to have on our farms that are affected by the disease.
He said the TB eradication budget has been reduced from in excess of €60m in the late 90’s and early 2000’s to just €35m last year which includes farmers’ disease levy contributions and significant EU funding. As a result there are ample resources to reduce the cost burden for farmers and Minister Coveney must address this issue as a matter of urgency.