Farmers stabbed in the back with TB risk letters – Fitzmaurice

Galway Daily news Farmers stabbed in the back with TB risk letters - Fitzmaurice

The government risks doing “untold damage” to farmers by issuing TB Herd History Risk Statements and Report letters a Galway TD has claimed.

Indepented TD Michael Fitzmaurice said that there has been a serious lack of consultation with farm bodies on these plans, which have “vehemently opposed” by farming organisations in the past.

“Serious questions remain unanswered, particularly around: data protection; the potential devaluing of cattle; the impact it could have on the mart trade; and future compensation.”

“Farmers contribute hugely to the TB Eradication Programme, through funding, time and labour. But the department is seemingly happy to stab these farmers in the back with this move.”

“Efforts to eradicate bovine TB in this country have been ongoing for decades and farmers have continuously played an active role in this,” Michael Fitzmaurice said.

“But yet the blame for recent increases is being placed squarely at their door, when other factors are also at play.”

Fitzmaurice asked if department officials are trying to “sneak this in” without a Minister for Agriculture present, after plans for issuing the letters progressed despite the cancellation of a meeting of the TB Forum.

Deputy Fitzmaurice added that the new Minister will need to be someone who does more than “nod to senior department officials”, and must examine the imbalance in farm incomes when comparing figures across the country.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association has also been highly critical of new TB History Risk Letters, stating that many farmers are in a state of “panic and confusion” after receiving advice to cull herds, even when none of the animals have tested positive for TB.

“This is causing a lot of confusion and worry, and it is particularly regrettable that this was done in the absence of a functioning Minister,” said ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell.

He added that farmers are free to “completely ignore” the letters, and that the ICSA will be demanding that the new Minister roll back this move.