TB situation deteriorating says UFU

Wednesday, 3 May, 2017

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says that with TB a major issue for farmers a plan to tackle the disease cannot be delayed because there is no executive and no minister.  UFU president, Barclay Bell, says DAERA officials must make progress a priority, so that when a minister is back in place there will be a plan there for them to approve.

“Doing nothing, which has been the case since December, is not acceptable to farmers.  This disease has a devastating impact on farm families and farm businesses and it has not stopped just because we don't have an Executive in place. While we might not all agree on the way ahead, we do all agree that something has to be done.  Tackling TB is a long term challenge – but that cannot be an excuse for kicking the issue into touch.  That is not fair to farmers, and indeed it is not fair to taxpayers, who have seen millions of pounds a year spent to achieve nothing, in terms of reducing the incidence of the disease,” said Mr Bell.

When the TB Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) proposals for the way ahead were published in December the UFU deemed that this was a starting point from which to discuss future policy.  It shared the group's view that repeating what had been tried in the past could not be the way ahead and we also stressed that meaningful action had to be taken on wildlife intervention before any other additional on-farm controls or compensation changes were considered.

“Back then we were ready to get into the debate, and indeed we met the TBSPG to discuss some of the positives in their report and some of our concerns.  We also believed that the then minister, Michelle McIlveen, was willing to take the decisions needed.   Now the industry is drifting, with no signs of when or how TB eradication can be brought back on course.  That is not acceptable.  It is officials that advise ministers, and in the absence of a minister there is no reason for those same officials not to work with the industry,” said Mr Bell.  

The UFU president added that the lack of political progress could not continually be used as an excuse for inaction.  He said the UFU would be contacting senior DAERA officials to urge them to move TB up the agenda, regardless of whether or not there was political progress at Stormont.

“Realistically, if we wait for a new minister, and then wait for them to be briefed, we are talking about there being no progress on TB eradication this year.  That is simply unacceptable,” said Mr Bell.