Farmers’ warning over bTB compensation rates after badger cull plans thrown out

Farmers’ warning over bTB compensation rates after badger cull plans thrown out

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has warned that  DAERA’s proposals to reduce the compensation rate for cattle infected with bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) will threaten the viability of family farms, impacting agri businesses, rural communities and local food production.

Currently, Northern Ireland (NI) farmers receive a market value for TB reactors which is assessed by DAERA. However, if valuation payments are slashed as proposed, any farm with a significant TB breakdown would be facing an uncertain future.

UFU deputy president John McLenaghan said, “To date, farm families have received a market valuation for cattle that tested positive for TB, but this doesn’t account for production losses. Now DAERA are suggesting making that reality even more difficult.

“It also must be recognised that DAERA’s proposals will impact far beyond the farm gate. This will also have a domino effect on other businesses which trade with farmers. They depend on farmers to keep their own livelihoods going, and they too will end up questioning their future if farms cannot stay viable after a TB breakdown due to the proposed cuts.”

Cormac McKervey, Ulster Bank senior agriculture manager added, “An outbreak of TB on farm can cause significant financial pressure often accompanied by mental pressure. The compensation paid covers the market value of the animal but nothing for income foregone in terms of lost milk or beef revenue. Any cut to stock payments would result in a more restricted cash flow, which could lead to the farmer borrowing additional money just to replace the stock that was taken as a result of TB. The cut would magnify the already difficult financial and mental pressure felt by farmers following a TB breakdown.”

“DAERA’s proposal to cut payments to farmers are penny wise and pound foolish. Instead, the department should be concentrating more effort on the implementation of an effective eradication strategy which would deliver true value for money in NI. The UFU will continue to exhaust every avenue to safeguard the future of NI’s agri industry,” said Mr McLenaghan.

The warning comes after the High Court last October threw out DAERA’s plans to introduce an English style badger cull in efforts to control bovine TB in cattle.

DAERA’s proposals would have allowed as many as 4,000 largely healthy badgers to be shot by farmer-led groups each year. However, in his response to a legal challenge brought by the organisations Wild Justice and the Northern Ireland Badger Group, Mr Justice Scofield found that DAERA had failed to conduct a lawful public consultation. He also found that the Department failed to advise the Minister about animal welfare concerns.