IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said the Minister for Agriculture must take control of the TB situation and convene discussions as a matter of urgency.
“They must be based on providing farmers with real input to the programme design and proportionate representation for farmers at the table. The TB Forum process has failed and it is time to get back to basics and deal with the real drivers of TB,” he said.
The IFA Chairman welcomed the Minister’s recognition of the huge stress, trauma and cost burden the TB programme imposes on farm families. He will be judged on actions by way of fair financial supports, not on words and promises.
“Farmers don’t need to be reminded of the increases in TB. We are the people dealing with the impact on our farms. That’s why IFA wants meaningful discussions to resolve the issue,” he said.
The claim by the Department of Agriculture that the TB letters are an attempt to reduce the levels of TB is not credible and is not backed up by any scientific papers that show devaluing animals and herds makes the animals from these herds a lower risk. In fact, this approach runs the risk of increased movements from the herds that are blacklisted by opportunistic buyers who move large numbers long distances for short term gain.
The approach in Australia, a country regularly referenced by the Department as the justification for these letters, prohibited the movement of animals to herds of a higher status, a fact missing from recent Department justification of the approach. Is this the Department’s real agenda behind the issuing of the letters?
The IFA Chairman said the Dept’s own studies attribute only 7.5% of TB breakdowns to animal movements. The three key areas that must be addressed are wildlife; on-farm investigation and fair financial supports for farmers while this is taking place.
“Minister McConalogue has a huge opportunity to make real progress by respecting farmers views and opinions and ensuring they are included in the programme, which didn’t happen in the failed TB Forum process,” he said.
He said IFA looks forward to engaging with Minister McConalogue and his officials in a positive and proactive manner to achieve the objective of disease eradication based on the three key areas IFA has continuously put forward.