There is no prospect of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) agreeing to DAERA proposals to cut the compensation paid for TB reactors, UFU president Victor Chestnutt has confirmed.
“We will be on the streets if this is the final plan. I can’t stand by and watch farmers be put out of business. It is unacceptable at any stage,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal.
The proposals around cuts to payments for reactor animals are part of a range of measures currently out for a public consultation that is due to close on 10 September 2021.
Over the last 10 years, various expert groups and DAERA reports have proposed cutting compensation. This time around the Department has suggested a 10% reduction in the value of an animal in the first year of a new policy, rising to a 25% cut from the second year onwards. There would also be an individual animal cap of £5,000.
“Losing one-quarter of the value of your animals – talk about knocking a farmer when they are down. It is morally wrong,” said Chestnutt.
The current lead expert group advising DAERA on TB policy is the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP). In an advice paper from June 2019 it recommended that a 10% reduction to compensation is payable on the first five animals in any 12-month period. It would mean that in a large outbreak, the sixth animal onwards would receive full market value.
However, Chestnutt is clear the UFU won’t be signing up to that proposal. “We won’t accept any cuts to compensation,” he responded.
He also took aim at the TBEP for suggesting that it is necessary to cut compensation to “encourage cultural change within the farming industry”, describing that as “an appalling statement”.
Cap to payments
In late 2017, following a report from the TB Strategic Partnership Group, DAERA proposed a cap of £1,500 for non-pedigree, £1,800 for pedigree animals, with up to £3,500 paid for the removal of one pedigree stock bull each year. This time around a less draconian upper limit of £5,000 has been proposed.