With reference to your Dealer article last week and the incorrect claim of IFA’s knowledge of and agreement to the herd risk letters issued unilaterally by the Department of Agriculture last year, it’s important to set out the correct position.

The ‘report’ referred to by Eoin Ryan SSVI is the ‘interim’ TB Forum Report. This was rejected by IFA, a position clearly set out publicly and directly to the Minister for Agriculture and to the chair of the TB Forum.

This report has no recommendation to communicate with and effectively publicise the TB status of every herd in the country in the format the Department did, in issuing these letters.

The report sets broad high-level principles, with detailed discussion on practical implementation to follow, with the proposal to categorise herds including the line: “The preferred option, subject to further consideration of the final details.”

The TB Forum met in June 2019 and did not convene again until October 2020, two months after the issuing of the Herd Risk Letters.

The letter in question was a solo run by the Department of Agriculture and went far beyond anything that was even contemplated in the high-level discussions at the TB Forum. This has been recognised in the TB Forum and assurances were given that a similar incident will not occur in the future.

Throughout the process, IFA rejected the publication of herd categories based on TB risk, including the original Department of Agriculture proposals to ‘blacklist’ farmers by putting their status on mart boards.

The IFA has also raised this issue with the Oireachtas Committee to correct any potential for misunderstanding of the facts related to the herd risk letters, which ‘blacklisted’ farmers based on their TB herd history.

In addition, the IFA lodged a complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner on 4 September, 2020. We have raised the issue subsequently with the Data Protection Commissioner on a number of occasions and we are awaiting a response.