ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has said that the Department must proceed with a TB strategy based on partnership with farmers which deals with the key issues identified by farmer representatives at the TB Forum.
Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Farrell said, “We need to face up to the role of wild deer in TB outbreaks. I cannot understand the reluctance of the Department on this issue.”
“We also have to resolve compensation issues and accept that spending money now is better than continuing to spend money indefinitely.”
“A TB strategy cannot work unless it operates on the basis that no individual farmer can be expected to carry an unfair burden and that farmers need 100% compensation.”
The farm organisation has called on the Department to commission research into the level of TB in deer and then implement a programme of culling.
“The reality is that we were going nowhere with TB until we did the same thing with badgers.”
“We know that testing has shown up to 16% TB infection in deer in Wicklow. Even in the rest of the country, limited testing has suggested 4% TB in deer.” Farrell stressed.
ICSA wants to see the Hardship Grant paid to all, regardless of off-farm income. “We want to see income supplement payments to begin on the day that the reactors are detected, and it must be paid on a per-day basis rather than a full month basis.”
“The 10% rule for Income Supplement needs to be discarded. Most importantly, we want to see the independent valuers be left to do their job. The Department should not be second-guessing the experts.”
“ICSA believes that money spent on sending Department officials to marts to compile prices is a waste when such data is readily available on a desktop exercise.”
“This expenditure would be better spent on rectifying penny-pinching measures which cost individual farmers dearly.”
“ICSA believes that the TB Forum needs to reconvene to examine the results of the independent costs benefit analysis and the review of the On-Farm Market Valuation.”
The farm organisation believes that unless all these issues are dealt with, there is “little chance” of eradicating TB by 2030.
“The TB Forum and the Department should operate on the basis that the views of those most affected – farmers – are given equal respect.”
“Partnership is the way forward to eradicate TB, but it must be a partnership of equals.”
Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture today, IFA President Joe Healy warned that farmers will not continue to support the TB programme unless the Department of Agriculture makes a “genuine effort” to address a number of issues.
He pointed out that farmers contribute €55m each year to the TB programme, through €27.746m in annual TB testing costs; €7.408m in disease levies; and €20m in labour.
“This covers over 9m animal tests a year and the implementation of the disinfection protocols following a disease outbreak.”
“In return, farmers receive only €18.087m in compensation for animal and production loss and maintenance costs,” he added.
“Farmers continue to support the efforts of the Department of Agriculture in eradicating TB from the national herd at an enormous direct and indirect cost,” he said.
“But this support should not be taken for granted if key issues are not addressed.”
IFA is demanding the eradication of TB from the national herd in the shortest feasible timeframes, but stressed that this cannot be achieved by further increasing the “already enormous and disproportionate cost burden on farmers”.
"More practical and effective way"
IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said the TB Forum has failed farmers by refusing to recognise and deal with the impact of the TB programme on farmers and their families.
“This refusal by the Minister and his Department is jeopardising the ongoing support of farmers for the TB programme, hindering progress on important enhancements to the programme and ultimately delaying eradication of the disease.”
"Clearly, protecting the 97% of herds that are free from TB annually must be the priority. However, attempting to achieve this by ignoring and further compounding the impact on the 3% of farmers, who through no fault of their own experience, TB breakdowns is a flawed and unacceptable policy position. "
He said that the main contributing factors identified by the Department of Agriculture to the current stagnation of progress towards eradication can be addressed in a "more practical and effective way" that takes account of the farming dynamic in Ireland and the "critical importance of animal movements and live exports".
"This will require up-front investment from the Government in the short term in order for all stakeholders and beneficiaries to accrue the long-term benefits of early eradication of the disease from the national herd." he concluded.