The Department of Agriculture’s decision to issue farmers with TB Herd History Risk Statements and Report letters will lead to untold damage, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Fitzmaurice, a TD for the Roscommon-Galway constituency, believes there are huge questions to be answered.

Speaking on the matter, he said: “One would have to wonder if the department decided to sneak this in without a minister at the helm and without sufficient consultation with farm bodies.

“I understand that members of the TB Forum were due to meet last Friday, only for the meeting to be postponed due to the ministerial vacancy in the Department of Agriculture.

“And yet the department were able to progress with its plan to issue these letters, which was vehemently opposed by farm organisations at previous meetings of the forum.

“Serious questions remain unanswered, particularly around: data protection; the potential devaluing of cattle; the impact it could have on the mart trade; and future compensation.

“Farmers contribute hugely to the TB Eradication Programme, through funding, time and labour. But the department is seemingly happy to stab these farmers in the back with this move.

“We cannot be forced to follow a model from the southern hemisphere when it comes to this issue.

“Efforts to eradicate bovine TB in this country have been ongoing for decades and farmers have continuously played an active role in this. But yet the blame for recent increases is being placed squarely at their door, when other factors are also at play.”

On the day the Dail resumes, Fitzmaurice added: “While we will wish the new Minister for Agriculture luck when they are announced, they must be prepared to stand up for farmers and their needs. Let’s hope they will be from a farming background.

“At this critical juncture, farmers do not need someone who is just going to nod to senior department officials. They need someone who is going to be active and decisive when it comes to the important decisions.

“This new minister also needs to examine the imbalance in farm incomes when comparing figures for different parts of the country.

“Other pressing matters for the incoming minister include the new CAP, the roll over of GLAS and the introduction of a new environmental scheme,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice – 086-1914565

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