Five people have been appointed to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ TB eradication partnership (TBEP).
The partnership is to be the next step in driving forward the fight against bovine tuberculosis, with the aim of eradicating the disease in Northern Ireland.
The TBEP will comprise a chair, and six members. DAERA permanent secretary Dr Denis McMahon announced at the Balmoral Show that a chair and four members have been appointed to the TBEP.
A statement from DAERA said that they were unable to appoint someone from an environmental/conservation or a food-processing background and that DAERA will discuss with TBEP how these two positions are filled.
A key TB Strategic Partnership Group recommendation was for the establishment of a new partnership structure to provide advice and fresh thinking
Sean Hogan from Co Down has been appointed as the chair of the TBEP. He was previously chair of Northern Ireland Water and he was the first chair of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).
Previously, he was also the chair of the TB Strategic Partnership Group and oversaw the publication of the TB Eradication Strategy. Currently, he is the chair of Newry Credit Union and a non-executive director of Ervia Group, Dublin.
From the veterinary sector, Tyrone’s Seamus O’Kane has been appointed to the TBEP and brings 46 years’ experience in a mixed veterinary practice with him. He is a past president of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association and the Association of Veterinary Surgeons in Northern Ireland.
Dr Sam Strain is also named on the partnership. From Co Armagh, Dr Strain has been head of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute TB Immunology Research Group and head of the bovine TB Culture Laboratory in Northern Ireland.
Currently, he is chief executive of Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI).
David Rea, a dairy and beef farmer from Co Down, also joins the partnership. He is a member of the UFU and the Association of Veterinary Surgeons in Northern Ireland. The other farmer in the group is Adrian Patterson, a mixed livestock farmer from Co Down with 16 years’ experience breeding pedigree stock. He has also extensive experience in the private sector at a senior level dealing with major organisational change.
Speaking at the DAERA breakfast event at the 150th Balmoral Show, permanent secretary Denis McMahon officially announced the new initiative and introduced the members of the new partnership.
“We recognise the challenge that faces all of us with the high rate of TB incidence. It is the source of significant stress for our farming families and has the potential to inflict serious damage on the wider agri-food industry and its ability to trade on a global scale.
“While we have taken a number of measures to address the issue, we want to keep moving forward with our approach.
“A key TB Strategic Partnership Group recommendation was for the establishment of a new partnership structure to provide advice and fresh thinking.
“TBEP will bring together individuals with knowledge and practical experience who will for the first time have a major role in shaping the TB programme at both a policy and ground level.
“Farmers will be involved at every level having an input to how the TB programme operates and bringing their experience to the problem.”
Dr McMahon touched on a number of other issues in his speech, including the importance of the agri-food sector, which generates an estimated £4.4bn income and employs over 22,000, and its role in protecting our environment.
“The success of the agri-food sector impacts not only on farmers, fishermen and their families, but also on the wider rural community, sustaining jobs and businesses across rural areas, and indeed making a major contribution to the economy, our natural environment and our way of life.
"A sustainable and profitable farm base lies at the heart of the food supply chain. After a few years of very difficult market conditions, there was a welcome upturn in farm prices during 2017.
“However, our agri-food sector must be both profitable and sustainable and the way forward is shared practice and collaborative working with the industry, and I am pleased to see this already in action.
“The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has resulted in an implementation plan with 90 actions that should deliver increased levels of compliance and improved sustainable farming practices on farms throughout Northern Ireland.”
Looking forward, Dr McMahon went on to address the changes that Brexit will bring.
A sustainable and profitable farm base lies at the heart of the food supply chain.
He said: “DAERA is working at pace with the aim of ensuring Northern Ireland is properly equipped to get the best deal for our industry.
"Engagement has been central to our approach at all levels. We continue to work extensively with our stakeholder groups on a programme of work to ensure that the issues, risks and opportunities are fully understood and explored. And we are working closely with key stakeholders in developing shared thinking on a future agricultural policy, environmental principles as well as a long-term strategy for our rural society.
“By working together, as one industry, we can achieve a thriving economy, a healthy environment and rural communities where people can live, work and grow.”
Summary of livestock events for day two of Balmoral Show
Balmoral show: the day one champions