It is high time that the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue secured additional funding to help eradicate TB by 2030 as it “cannot be done on the cheap”, according to ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell.

When the TB Forum was initially set up, Farrell said the ISCA was led to believe that funding would not be an obstacle if a good strategy could be agreed but now it looks like this is a major sticking point.

The Department is only coming up with increasingly “ridiculous ways” of saving a few bob here and a few bob there, all at the expense of farmers, Farrell said.

“If we want to gain a bit of forward momentum, now is the time to provide the support with a view to saving money in the long-term.

“The minister must face up to the fact that the increase in agri-food exports also has consequences in terms of costs,” he said.

He explained that total agri-food exports in 2020 surpassed €14bn, which is a 60% increase on 2010 figures.

Infectious diseases cannot be tackled with penny pinching

“It is plainly absurd to think that this increase, strongly related to a 50% increase in dairy cows, can be sustained without increased spending on TB,” he said.

He added how ICSA has become bogged down in various sub-committees where the Department is trying to impose more restrictions and more cost on farmers.

“For example, ICSA rejects plans to cap compensation on large herds because we believe that 100% compensation – no more, no less – is a fundamental principle.

“We also need to see progress on the Income Supplement side which is very far from being fit for purpose at a time when milk and beef prices are significantly higher,” he said.

He argued that the minister must reflect on the fact that the Government saw fit to throw limitless funds at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even then, the outcome has been that total eradication is elusive. Infectious diseases cannot be tackled with penny pinching, especially if we are to reach the target of 2030 eradication.

“If this were achieved, the Government would save a fortune in the long term, but you have to invest to accumulate,” he said.