Farm leaders and Department lock horns on TB eradication


Farm leaders and Department lock horns on TB eradication

IFA claims there are ‘huge shortcomings’ and questions officials’ commitment to the programme

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A war of words has erupted between the IFA and the Department of Agriculture on the TB eradication programme.

The IFA last week questioned the Department of Agriculture’s commitment to the programme and claimed that farmers had lost patience with the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, and with the Department.

IFA animal health chairman, Pat Farrell, maintained that Minister Creed had a “lack of appreciation” of the impact of TB controls on farmers and their families.

Mr Farrell called on Minister Creed and his officials to start listening to the views of farmers and to address what he described as the “huge shortcomings in the programme”.

In response, the Department of Agriculture pointed out that €82.6m was spent on the TB eradication programme last year and that €1bn will be spent between now and 2030 as part of a major drive to eradicate the disease.

The Department stated that Minister Creed had established a stakeholder forum to devise the revamped eradication strategy.

The forum is due to meet for the first time on September 5.

The Department admitted that the absence of stakeholder ownership of the TB eradication programme had been identified as a major weakness by both research and EU audits.

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“Successful implementation of a bovine TB eradication strategy will require the proactive participation of the farming community, industry, veterinary profession, researchers and the Department,” the Department stated.

“Establishing a forum tasked with developing proposals for the strategy will provide all stakeholders with ownership and responsibility for implementation,” it added.

The IFA has insisted that any new strategy must:

* Reduce the cost burden on farmers

* Compensate farmers fully for all TB costs and losses

* Work to eradicate the disease in as tight a timeframe as possible

* Continue culling of badgers and deer where necessary.

The IFA stressed that it supported the development of a TB forum, provided it delivered “a meaningful platform for stakeholder views to be incorporated into the programme”.

The public spat on the TB eradication strategy follows warnings from the farm organisations that a disease outbreak in Monaghan was spiralling out of control.

A recent Department letter to farmers admitted that breakdown rates in the county were double the national average, while the reactor rate per 1,000 tests was three times the national average.

Pointing to the deterioration of the situation in Monaghan, Mr Farrell said it raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of badger vaccination, as Monaghan has been part of the vaccination programme for a number of years.

Hardship grants

The Department said that where significant localised TB outbreaks occur, such as in the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry and in parts of Monaghan, its approach is to work proactively with local stakeholders to tackle the outbreaks.

“This approach has borne fruit in relation to the Kerry outbreak and we are confident the current special programme devised for Monaghan will similarly be successful, with the support of all stakeholders,” the Department said.

However, ICMSA deputy president, Lorcan McCabe, expressed concern regarding the income supports and hardship grants available to ‘locked up’ holdings.

He said the payments were just “token gestures” when set against the increased levels of expenditure and fall in income farmers experienced.

Mr McCabe said farmers who were locked up over the last year as a result of TB have had to endure two fodder crises, with limited income and additional costs.

“These farmers are particularly vulnerable and really need to be supported,” Mr McCabe said.

“They can’t sell anything out of the farm, while at the same time they can’t afford to keep feeding their stock – they’re suffering a classic ‘double-whammy’ and we’d appeal to the Department to look at some way of giving these farms some kind of relief and practical help.”

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