Various measures introduced in the spring of 2020 to minimise disruption to bovine TB tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic are to end from 16 August 2021, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has confirmed.
From this date anyone who lets their herd test run more than a month overdue runs the risk of being referred to the DAERA paying agency, and having penalties applied to their basic payment scheme (BPS) payments if they are selected for inspection.
Since March 2020 farmers with overdue tests have not been referred to the paying agency.
However, the Department will accept extenuating circumstances (such as a requirement to self-isolate due to COVID-19) that prevent a test going ahead, if notified before a deadline passes.
From 16 August 2021, the testing exemption for calves under 180 days of age will also end, while herds that exceed 15 months without a herd test will return to requiring two clear tests to reinstate their Officially TB Free status.
Reacting to the changes, UFU deputy president William Irvine said he was disappointed that DAERA is returning to a policy of threatening farmers with penalties to ensure compliance.
The UFU has requested that the change is not made until a review is undertaken to examine how DAERA deals with farmers who attempt to stretch the limits of the TB testing regime. The union believes that herd restrictions should be considered as an alternative option.