Welcoming the commitment secured by IFA in the Programme for Government to address TB blackspot areas, IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart said the drive towards eradication must be expedited.
He said, “The Wildlife Programme must be implemented effectively throughout the country and ratcheted up in areas where problems persist. In relation to deer, a similar programme also under the control of the DAFM Wildlife unit must be established as a matter of urgency”.
Bert Stewart said, “The overall cost of the programme is made up of €64m in running costs and €25m in testing charges to farmers, bringing the total annual cost of the programme to almost €90m. It’s in the interests of farmers and the Exchequer that the eradication process is speeded up to free up these resources for farm schemes”.
Farmers who incur a direct cost burden of one third of the €90m programme receive less than €15m in compensation payments, while vets avail of almost €10m annually from DAFM for testing restricted herds.
Farmers’ contribution of over €5m in disease levies each year and EU funding of €12m-€14m reduce the exchequer liability. However, the EU funding comes at the cost of increased controls on farmers, with the relevance and effectiveness of some of these questionable at best in eradicating the disease.
He said the changes secured by IFA in particular to the income supplement scheme, which came into effect on the 1st May, are a significant step in addressing some of the costs and must be built on. “Issues such as the purchase in prohibition and the forced retention of calves in dairy herds remain a huge burden in the programme and these must be addressed through a combination of more flexibility by DAFM and compensation payments for costs/losses incurred.”
While progress continues to be made nationally in reducing the incidence, it is of little consequence to farmers who are having their livelihoods decimated by the disease and the control programme associated with it.