IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has strongly criticised the Department of Agriculture for its interference with the independence of the live valuation scheme, and the resulting under-valuation of animals removed as TB reactors from farms.
Bert Stewart said it is not only farmers who are experiencing difficulties in dealing with the scheme. He said a large number of highly-qualified independent valuers, contracted by the Department to carry out valuations, have also raised their frustrations to IFA at being prevented by the Department of Agriculture from assessing the true market value of animals for farmers.
He said the rigid and unnecessary imposition of a draconian penalty point system by the Department of Agriculture on qualified, experienced and Department trained independent valuers for areas relating to the valuation of animals completely undermines the independence of the scheme and the valuers, resulting in farmers not receiving a fair and impartial valuation of their animals. This system must be removed.
Bert Stewart said this is further compounded by the compilation of weekly guideline prices by the Department of Agriculture that fail to reflect the true market value of animals, particularly higher merit animals and quality animals that normally would not be offered for sale.
Based on analysis carried out by IFA, the prices available in the marketplace are well above the guideline prices compiled by the Department of Agriculture to which valuers are expected to rigidly adhere. The disparity ranges from €100s for commercial animals to €1,000s for higher merit animals.
“Rigid and impractical guidelines for the categorisation of animals in areas such as milk yield and category is also severely restricting the value animals can attain in the scheme,” Bert Stewart said.
Bert Stewart said the erosion of the independence of the live valuers and the implementation of non-market appropriate conditions for categorisation of animals renders the farm visit meaningless, fails to recognise the professional competency and market experience of independent valuers who are contracted and trained by the Department of Agriculture and is resulting in TB reactors on farms being grossly undervalued.
The IFA Chairman said the live valuation scheme is the central plank of the compensation schemes in TB eradication programme, was hard won by IFA in early 2000 to provide farmers with the price their animals might reasonably attain if offered for sale on the open market and this principle must be provided in the live valuation scheme.
Bert Stewart said he has raised this issue directly in communication with the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and is seeking a return to the political commitment given, which provides farmers the opportunity to receive the market value of their animals when removed for disease purposes from their farms.