Following a meeting with Department officials this week on the TB programme, IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart accused the Department of Agriculture of failing to take account of the huge financial impact the loss of animals has on individual farms.
Bert Stewart said farmers are holding the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney responsible and he must immediately intervene as a matter of urgency to address the issues identified by IFA in the detailed submissions made to him. All of these changes, which significantly reduce the burden of the TB programme for farmers, are within the gift of the Minister and can be provided within the current budget allocation.
He said the proposed changes from the Department represent nothing more than a redistribution of existing programme costs, do not utilise the full budget allocation, is insulting to farmers and shows no understanding of the turmoil caused by TB episodes at farm level. The rates of payment in the Programme have not changed in over 20 years and this is unacceptable.
He said the DAFM accept the losses calculated by IFA in relation to dairy cows, suckler cows and other animals on a monthly basis of €117, €49 and €29 respectively, yet have proposed a reduction to the depopulation grant of €12/month for dairy cows while only increasing the level of income supplement to €45, leaving suckler cow rates unchanged. Furthermore, he said the Department refusal to provide consequential loss payments to herdowners losing less than 10% of their animals is a fundamental flaw in the existing programme and must be addressed. It is not acceptable that with increased herd sizes farmers can find themselves losing 20 or 30 animals to TB and not qualifying for income supplement.
The IFA chairman said the DAFM have proposed reducing the valuation prices for dairy cows by an average of €134/head by reducing the co-efficient from €1.35 to 23c per unit EBI based on a Teagasc analysis of market prices which were recorded by the Department. This level of price reduction will be further compounded when the new EBI indices are provided next year by ICBF which could see EBI figures reducing in the region of €80 to €100 per animal. Bert Stewart said this is a retrograde step by the Department and at odds with the strong advice given to farmers in relation to the value of EBI and its importance going forward in identifying the most productive and profitable animals.
The DAFM proposal to increase the maximum amount payable under the live valuation scheme by €200 and €300 respectively for all animals and for stock bulls does not adequately address the shortcomings in the scheme for high merit animals.
In relation to the purchase in restriction being imposed by the Department of Agriculture on farms until they undergo a clear test Bert Stewart said it is not equitable, fair or acceptable that the livelihoods of these farmers is being taken away by the Department in order to draw down €14m in EU funding towards the compensation scheme while providing no financial support to the farmers affected most by the controls. If the Department of Agriculture are not in a position to allow these farmers stock their farms full compensation for losses incurred must be paid.
Bert Stewart said he has again written to the Minister highlighting the urgency of resolving the issues pertaining to the TB programme which will significantly reduce the cost burden for farmers.