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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Swann hits out against proposals to reduce TB compensation rates

Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has criticised a proposal to cut the compensation paid for cattle removed under the bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) programme.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) here is currently running an 8 week consultation exercise that could see compensation rates cut to 75% of an animal’s market value.

Robin Swann said:

“Bovine TB is a scourge of a disease, hugely impacting and disrupting thousands of farms across Northern Ireland each year. For far too long the disease has been allowed to spread unabated inflicting real financial hardship on the agricultural industry with no intervention or action from the Department. 

“By spending so long producing countless reports that ultimately lead to nothing, the Department failed to limit the spread of the disease. I have spoken to farmers across County Antrim who are incensed by what is being proposed, especially because the Department wasted so many years and missed so many opportunities to actually do something to tackle the disease. As a result the incidence levels of bTB in Northern Ireland are through the roof compared to Scotland, England & Wales.

“Whilst DAERA are honest enough to freely acknowledge that bTB is the most difficult animal disease problem currently facing government, the veterinary profession and the farming industry here, the proof is there for all to see that as the responsible Government Department it has systemically failed to do anything about it.

“The Department couldn't even run a fit-for-purpose administrative process on some of the most important aspects of the latest TB eradication programme, which maddeningly saw what limited plans they had in place for wildlife intervention thrown out by the courts.

“Yet despite its total failure to act, the Department now has the brass neck to talk about cutting compensation rates paid for infected and reactor animals. Whilst the current compensation rates provide limited comfort, in reality the disease wreaks far more financial and operational disruption on individual farms than the current compensation is worth.

“Whilst I understand that the Department are eager to try to to suggest that the main driving force behind the consultation is the previous direction from the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to consider measures to save money and raise additional revenue, it’s worth remembering that this is not the first time DAERA has proposed cutting compensation rates.

“There is no doubt that public finances are in a state of utter chaos in Northern Ireland, seen once through the huge display of public frustration of those taking part in at last week’s industrial action, but it’s totally unfair and totally objectionable of DAERA to now try to pass cost savings onto farmers for a problem that they are largely responsible for.

"I’d encourage all farming businesses, and all others who may have an interest in the issue, to please respond to the current DAERA consultation. The unfairness of even the suggestion to cut compensation rates makes it even clearer why Northern Ireland would be so much better served by a locally accountable Executive and Ministers.” 


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