Farm organisations are concerned that farmers will be asked to bear the brunt of the spiralling costs in the bovine TB programme.
As disease trends have deteriorated, the annual spend on controlling TB has reached almost €100m, with the State plugging gaps left by reducing EU support for the programme.
However, farm organisations stressed that farmers are carrying the costs of increasing TB reactors and restrictions at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas agriculture committee.
In his statement to politicians, IFA president Tim Cullinan said a sustainable financing model was the crucial issue to be addressed in advance of agreeing a new 10-year TB strategy.
The new TB financial working group is due to receive a cost-benefit analysis of the programme in the coming days. This will form the basis of the new funding model.
“Currently farmers and the State contribute to the TB programme while the broader agri-sector and society accrue benefits without cost. The funding model must fairly distribute costs among beneficiaries,” Cullinan said.
Irish farmers contributed a total of €35m to the TB programme last year, €27m in TB testing and over €7m in disease levies. The State contributed €57m while the EU gave €5.4m.
Farmer costs exclude labour valued between €12.5m and €20m, a point raised by several farm organisations.
In its submission, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) questioned the increase in the Department’s staffing costs, which have risen from €26m to €34m. The ICSA is requesting a detailed breakdown of these costs.
“ICSA awaits the cost-benefit analysis with interest. In our view there is a potential for Department of Agriculture staffing costs to be excessively allocated to the TB programme,” ICSA animal health chair Hugh Farrell said.
Financial supports to farmers at €21m are significantly less than they contribute through testing, he pointed out.
The issue of financing is hugely significant, according to Lorcan McCabe of the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Asssociation (ICMSA). He called for financial supports to be front-loaded over the next 10 years to compensate farmers for stricter measures.
Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy told the committee that eradication must remain the focus due to the significant costs imposed on farmers.
“While support is often offered following a positive herd test, the potential of preventive management to reduce risk of herd breakdowns occurring is in Macra’s view not significantly promoted,” Duffy said.