IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart said the changes announced to the Income Supplement scheme for farmers losing animals as TB reactors are a significant step forward and a welcome development after over 20 years without revision of the scheme.
Increasing the rate of payment for dairy cows from €25.39/cow/month to €55, paying the grant when at least 10% of cows are removed from the herd as opposed to when over 10% of the herd are removed, and the abolition of the 100-animal ceiling are all measures that will reduce some of the huge financial burden experienced by dairy farmers in the TB eradication programme.
Bert Stewart said IFA have sought fundamental changes to the TB programme for a period of time in order to reduce the enormous cost burden of the disease for farmers and these amendments approved by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney represent a positive first step in addressing some of the difficulties.
Increasing the Depopulation grant for suckler cows by 19%, bringing it into line with the income supplement rate of €38/month/cow addresses some of the shortcomings in the current programme for suckler farmers who have their entire herd removed as TB reactors.
The IFA Chairman said extending the hardship grant scheme to dairy farmers is a first step in addressing the difficulties experienced with the forced retention of calves. However, in order to effectively support farmers in this situation the scheme criteria and payment conditions must be reviewed.
Bert Stewart said the increase to the ceilings on payments under the On Farm Valuation scheme from €2,800 for a bovine to €3,000 and from €3,500 to €4,000 for a stock bull and €5,000 for a pedigree bull is progress but still leaves farmers with high merit animals at a loss.
Introducing separate categories for served heifers and heifers with breeding potential into the On Farm Valuation scheme is consistent with changes sought by IFA and welcome, as it ensures a fairer and more accurate market valuation of these animals.
The IFA chairman said reducing the EBI top-up co-efficient for dairy cows from €1.35 to €0.50/unit EBI is very disappointing. The On Farm Valuation scheme was designed to provide farmers with the market value their animal would attain if offered for sale on the open market and the DAFM must ensure independent valuers are not impeded in this process. Bert Stewart said with the changes to the EBI indices, this issue must be revisited.
Bert Stewart said the Department’s commitment to alleviate the problems arising from the prohibition in EU legislation on buying in to restricted herds by adopting as flexible an approach to feedlots as possible and their willingness to allocate herd numbers to farmers where they have parcels of land where there are no cattle to permit them to buy in cattle is welcome. However these issues require further clarity and where the approach outlined above is unattainable for farmers a solution to the income loss experienced must be provided.
Bert Stewart said the changes outlined must be implemented immediately to reduce the cost burden for farmers and in this regard IFA have sought a meeting with the Department of Agriculture to discuss the outstanding issues and to clarify operational aspects of the changes.