The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) says it “will not agree” to more [TB] testing unless there is additional government support.

ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said that it is now time for Minister [for Agriculture Charlie] McConalogue to step up to the plate and outline what extra financial contribution he will make to cover the extra rules and restrictions being proposed in relation to bovine TB.

Farrell said: “We are not willing to spend another year being fobbed off with expensive consultant reports designed to cloud over the key issues. It is now time for the Minister to sit down and take a realistic approach to resolving this.”

The ICSA animal health chair made the comments in relation to the work of the TB stakeholder forum, a group set up by Minister McConalogue in 2021 to oversee the TB eradication strategy, which aims to make Irish farms bovine TB-free by 2030.

‘Extremely frustrated’

On the work of the TB group, Farrell said: “Farm organisations are getting extremely frustrated at the way in which the TB forum and its sub-committee is following a one-sided agenda.

“Proposals to bring in pre- or post-movement testing requirements are not going to be agreed on by [the] ICSA or other representatives unless we have clarity on how this will be funded.

"[The] ICSA is clear - the whole regime is built around a deal from many years ago, whereby farmers agreed to pay for the annual herd test, but not any additional testing.

“There is a finance sub-committee of the TB forum, but it is hamstrung because farm representatives are being confronted with extra hardships on farmers without any money being put on the table from the Government side.”

Call to Minister

Criticising what he described as the current “logjam”, the ICSA representative said the association is calling on Minister McConalogue to “sit down with the farm organisations and put serious proposals forward on how the Government will come up with extra funds”.

“It is not realistic to keep coming with an increasing list of demands for more and more testing when farmers are being left hanging with a set of supports, under schemes such as the income supplement and hardship grants that are totally out of date, especially in the current inflationary climate.

"Extra testing requirements impose extra costs, which farmers cannot carry at the moment,” he said.