The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has strongly criticised the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for the consultation on reducing compensation rates for cattle removed under the bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) program.

The UFU stated that the proposals if implemented, would significantly reduce payments to farmers whose cattle react to a bTB test.

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Published on January 12, the consultation considers the possibility of phasing in reduced compensation, initially to 90% of the bovine animal’s market value in the first year, followed by a further reduction to 75% the following year.

UFU President David Brown expressed concern, stating: “Farmers already bear a loss of income from those animals that are removed when bTB positive.

“To devalue cattle’s worth after the animals have fallen victim to a disease that has become rampant in our region because of our department’s inability to deliver an effective eradication programme is nothing short of barefaced robbery.

“DAERA failed to deliver a wildlife intervention programme that has been an integral component in reducing infection levels in other jurisdictions, and although there is still intent to do so, our members cannot be expected to carry any further costs because of DAERA’s shortcomings.”

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He also added: “Members continue to be blighted by bTB on farms and it’s having a severe impact not only on the Northern Ireland (NI) livestock industry but on the well-being of our farmers.”

The UFU previously requested a meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, regarding cost-saving measures in Northern Ireland, but received no response.

He highlighted the lack of progress since DAERA's bTB eradication strategy announcement in 2021, calling it a serious setback for the farming industry.

David emphasised that the UFU is seeking legal advice to oppose the proposal and urged anyone interested in Northern Ireland's food security to respond to the DAERA’s consultation.