UFU slam suggestion to reduce TB payments

UFU Deputy President John McLenaghan, on his farm near Garvagh. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has slammed suggested proposals to cut stock valuations for TB reactor cattle. It was recently communicated that Northern Ireland (NI) Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, has instructed DAERA to publish official proposals.

UFU deputy president John McLenaghan said, “To date, the UFU has continued to make it absolutely clear to DAERA officials that there are to be no cuts to the value of livestock removed from farms that have gone down with TB. This order by the NI Secretary of State to publish proposals on TB valuations, is an attempt to help stabilise public finances. Our farmers will not tolerate any reduction in payments, especially when we are in this situation due to the shortcomings of our government. Incidence levels of TB in NI are at a record high because of DAERA’s inability to implement an effective eradication strategy which has been ongoing for generations.

“A new strategy to eradicate TB was launched in early 2022 by the DAERA Minister at that time, Edwin Poots. Poots stated that a review of the compensation arrangements would only be considered after the implementation of the strategy. The UFU continue to point out that our farmers have never received any compensation for loss of production, and that they are solely paid for the market value of their animals. The value of every single reactor is agreed on by DAERA staff. For that reason, our members already carry a significant financial burden when the disease comes to their herd and the UFU remain firmly opposed to these barbaric proposals.”

Since 2022, the UFU have been fully engaged in getting the revised TB strategy delivered in full. In comparison, DAERA have already done a U-turn on some of the measures that they were meant to put in place.

“The NI Secretary of State needs to remember that these cattle are the property of our farmers and the reason why they continue to become infected with the disease is largely because of DAERA’s inaction. They are not a public good that can be devalued to make up a budget deficit. To consider devaluing cattle’s worth after the animals have fallen victim to a disease that has become rampant in our region because of our department, is nothing short of theft. Instead of hitting farmers when they are already down, suffering mentally and financially, it would be much more effective for DAERA to prioritise tackling the disease itself, which in turn would reduce the cost. In the long run, this would be much more beneficial for public monies,” said Mr McLenaghan.