UFU disappointed at change to COVID-19 mitigating measures

Wednesday, 21 July, 2021

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is disappointed by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots’ decision to reintroduce referring farmers with overdue TB tests to the paying agency from 16 August of this year. This has not occurred since March 2020 as a flexibility to ensure the safety of farmers and veterinarians during the pandemic.

UFU deputy president William Irvine said, “The UFU encourage all its members to carry out TB testing in a timely manner. However, we feel that in the case of an overdue TB test, which is in the minority, DAERA have several other measures available to them without threatening farmers with cross compliance penalties and delays to their Single Farm Payments (SFPs) - it should be permanently abolished.

“SFPs make up a large proportion of many farmers’ incomes. For DAERA to know this and to use it to their advantage is inappropriate and causes unnecessary stress for the farmer who is already enduring a burdened environment and trying to run a family farm business.

“We appreciate the flexibility shown by DAERA during COVID-19 and it is important to highlight that this was not exploited as the majority of farmers continued to work towards testing in a timely manner if it was at all possible. Therefore, it makes DAERA’s decision even more unfair.”

The UFU request that a review is carried out to examine how DAERA deal with farmers who attempt to stretch the limits of the TB testing regime and that herd restrictions are considered as an alternative option.

“An opportunity has presented itself to assess the effectiveness of measures that have been previously used and threatened excessively. It is our view that the resumption of referring farmers to cross compliance should not occur until the process has been appropriately reviewed by DAERA and industry stakeholders.

“Herd restrictions would be the most suitable way to address overdue TB tests and we would like to see this being looked at going forward. It can limit the trading ability of a farmer and would give DAERA the ability to bring action to any herd keeper that resists timely testing of their herd.”