THE Steering Committee of Farmers For Action has issued its response to the bTB consultation which closed on September 10.
FFA mailed its response directly to Belfast and wants to make it as public as possible so that MLAs will be sure to have sight of it ahead of the vote to support a cull of infected badgers to “help rid Northern Ireland of this plague when it comes before Stormont”.
The FFA’s response said:
“FFA want to make their views clear and not be rail-roaded by the department’s questions online. Please make this clear to MLAs when the information goes forward as we will be informing as many of them as possible our views.
“There is a time and a place for using Interferon Gamma test-
ing and other tests such as Enferplex on cattle. Interferon Gamma should only be used where lesions have been found following a positive skin test as a means of identifying endemic disease, or where consistent out-breaks have been identified. We make this recommendation on the understanding that current compensation levels remain in place. It is not an option to use more sensitive testing resulting in the removal of more animals, whilst reducing ‘compensation’ at the same time.
“The Heads of the Department for Agriculture Veterinary Department in Northern Ireland have been negligent in dealing with bTB for decades; as a result TB has spread into wild deer in Northern Ireland in certain areas as well as the possibility of other non-bovines.
“It should be noted that when a cull of infected badgers would be rolled out, there exists an opportunity when suitable to cull infected deer at the same time, lawfully.
“Farmers For Action’s choice of dealing with wildlife intervention is for the Heads of the Department for Agriculture Veterinary Department in Northern Ireland to implement a cull of infected badgers each year up to the area limit of the Bern Convention in order to end bTB asap – all at the department’s own expense and operation. FFA point out that this is the duty of the Veterinary Department and as FFA previously pointed out EU money, and therefore other, has been squandered over the years and therefore the earliest that Northern Ireland family farmers should be looking at support funding is five years from now.
“Under no circumstances with the mistrust that exists between family farmers, tormented with bTB for decades, and the heads of department, should any funding be asked for from farmers for at least five years – in short, the heads of department have four years to put the cull in place and action on the ground.
“Regions in England have proved that the first two years’ results will be mixed due to badger movements, however, by the fourth year a huge reduction in TB will be evident.
“The heads of the Department for Agriculture & Veterinary De-partment keep talking about ‘compensation’. FFA make clear that farmers across Northern Ireland up to now have only received payment for animals removed, they have not received compensation for the time taken to handle and re-handle stock for TB testing or for loss of income due to loss of milk production or beef sales.
“In addition Northern Ireland elite pedigree breeders have already suffered financial discrimination post-Brexit. Under the present operation of the Protocol, these breeders are prevented from full participation in UK herd book activities, and cannot withstand further financial hardship.
“The future of beef production relies heavily on elite genetics, and the superior growth rates and environmental advantages that can be gained from their development and use.
“There needs to be a system to both encourage and allow these elite genetic, high value, animals to be bred, imported and exported from Northern Ireland.
“Capping ‘compensation’ will kill this trade dead. Any attempt to put a £5,000 cap on ‘compensation’ will be met with a swift reaction from FFA and other good farm organisations in Northern Ireland, especially when on-farm costs are escalating.
“To conclude, under no circum-stances will FFA tolerate anything less than fair play from a de-partment that has not done so on bTB for decades. In short, FFA will not tolerate any reduction in ‘compensation,’ instead we want to see family farmers receive full payment for animals removed and compensation for loss of income, like Southern Ireland.
“If the department finally gets its act together and gets on top of bTB over the next five years the payment for animals/compensation will be a diminishing issue for the department and farming families.