Speaking at this week’s meeting of the IFA Executive Council, Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart said the latest offer from the Department of Agriculture in amendments to the TB compensation scheme which comes 18 months after the issue was raised with the Minister still fails to address the impact and the huge cost burden that TB controls impose on farmers.
Bert Stewart said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must intervene as a matter of urgency to address the issues identified by IFA in the detailed submissions made to him. All of the changes identified by IFA, 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 revised changes put forward by the Department do not utilise the budget available in the programme and show 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.
Bert Stewart said the proposal to pay a higher rate of income supplement of €62.50 for the months March-October and reduce back down to the existing rate of €25.39 for the remaining four months is not acceptable, unfair to farmers in different systems and grossly underestimates the actual income loss associated with the removal of dairy cows. Reducing the depopulation grant by €5/month for dairy cows clearly shows the lack of acceptance of the losses that farmers experience.
The proposal to apply the 10% income supplement threshold requirement specifically to dairy cows is progress, but must be reduced further. The increase in the depopulation grant for suckler cows bringing it in line with the income supplement payment removes an anomaly from the programme but the rates must be increased further. The removal of the 100 animal ceiling in the income supplement scheme is welcome.
Extending the hardship scheme to dairy farmers is helpful, but the rate of payment and the maximum amount payable must be increased. The IFA Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary said one of the biggest difficulties TB restrictions cause for dairy farmers is the prevention of sale of calves. This imposes huge costs through added labour requirements, housing and a reduced market value for the animals, leading to animal welfare concerns due to the enormous stress caused. The latest proposal from the Department fails to address this issue.
He said the DAFM’s revised proposal to reduce the EBI co-efficient from €1.35 to 50c per unit EBI is an improvement on the original offer, but remains a retrograde step by the Department and is 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, IFA Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said it is unbelievable considering the difficulties this measure imposes on livestock farmers that this issue is not dealt with in the latest proposal.
Henry Burns said 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 is calling on the Minister to resolve these TB programme issues identified by IFA, which will significantly reduce the cost burden for farmers.