There is more red tape within the NI agri food sector since the UK left the EU, the president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said.

“Europe is known for bureaucracy and rules. A lot of us hoped when the Brexit vote went through that we would get rid of red tape, but instead there seems to have been another layer added on,” Victor Chestnutt said.

DAERA criticism

During an online meeting with members last week, the UFU president was critical of how DAERA’s veterinary service is implementing new rules which stem from the NI protocol.

“They [DAERA] say that they are over stretched and haven’t enough vets, yet they make more rules that makes more jobs for themselves. NI has a civil service that is much too big,” he maintained.

Chestnutt gave the example of the requirement for livestock to have an export tag before being moved from Britain to NI, while also needing to be re-identified after arrival with tags from the new herd.

The department’s traceability system links all records associated with the old tag to the new one, and this has led Chestnutt to question why the animal needs to be physically re-tagged in the first place.

“If they can do that, why not let the old tag stay and cross reference it to the new tag which can stay in a plastic bag in the house,” he said.

Bovine TB

More criticism was aimed at DAERA when the discussion moved on to bovine TB.

The UFU president repeated his call for a new approach to tackling the disease in NI and said DAERA staff should be more understanding when dealing with TB outbreaks on family farms.

“The stress it is putting on farmers is second to none. They [DAERA staff] only see a computer screen. They don’t see the human element of it,” Chestnutt said.

“I have been pushing very strongly with the minister. This time, there can be no reversing out of this. We need to tackle TB,” he argued.