Farmers are supportive of proposed levies which will be used to fund a targeted badger cull under a new TB eradication strategy, the president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said.
Speaking at the sixth regional TB meeting to be held across NI, David Brown said there has been very little resistance to the plans for how wildlife intervention will be funded.
“The response from the floor at all meetings could basically be summarised as ‘get on with it’,” he said at the meeting in Portrush last week.
The proposal is for a levy of 0.02p/l to apply on milk and £1/head on slaughtered cattle, with the money used for funding wildlife intervention in TB hotspot areas that have large badger populations.
The aim is for the first non-selective cull to take place next autumn, with initial surveys of badger setts in cull areas starting in the spring.
However, a potential obstacle is an ongoing legal challenge by wildlife campaigners due to be heard in the High Court in Belfast on Monday.
“This isn’t unexpected. Any badger intervention programme [that happened] across the British Isles was taken to court because it is an emotive issue,” said Neal Gartland from DAERA.
Even if the department is successful in the upcoming court case, Gartland said it was “highly likely” that there could be further legal challenges by wildlife campaigners.
“It is just a matter of due process and working through it to hopefully get wildlife intervention on the ground as we expect and aim for next autumn,” he said.
At the meeting in Portrush, DAERA was subject to some criticism from the floor about how TB policy had been handled in the past, although most farmers appeared hopeful that the new strategy could help NI turn a corner on TB.
“If we don’t work together, we can’t achieve it. We are committed to it,” Gartland said.