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Calls For Clear And Consistent Bovine TB Advice

03 February 2010
National Farmers Union

WALES, UK - Clear and consistent advice and guidance must always be readily available to farmers to explain any changes to pre-movement testing and compensation policies.

That’s according to National Farmers' Union (NFU) Cymru in its response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s consultation on the Tuberculosis and Brucellosis (Wales) Order 2010.

Stephen James, NFU Cymru Vice President said, “Whilst NFU Cymru will support measures that can be proven practically on farm to reduce the incidence of bovine TB we have concerns with regard to a number of options proposed by the Welsh Assembly Government within this consultation paper.

“For example, the paper proposes that the power be given to the Welsh Assembly Government to allow them to use fixed penalty notices in some instances. Whilst NFU Cymru feels that the use of these notices could be an appropriate tool for the government to use in the event of wilful disregard or refusal to comply with the requirements of the Order, we also feel strongly that the government should avoid taking a ‘Parking Fine’ mentality in issuing such penalties. They should only be used as a last resort and only where there’s been obvious failure or refusal to follow and adhere to clear advice and guidance given by enforcement bodies.”

NFU Cymru also notes the proposals within the consultation paper to change the compensation regime in Wales and to allow the Welsh Assembly Government the power to reduce compensation in relation to overdue tests, illegal activities and a failure to take appropriate action as set out in Veterinary Improvement Notices.

Stephen James said, “We cannot disagree in principle, with the exception of cases of ‘force majeure’, that if a herd owner is responsible for a significant delay in completing a bovine TB test then they should bear some of the consequences if reactors are subsequently found at the resultant test. However, we have some concerns about linking compensation to Veterinary Improvement Notices and would stress that any actions required to be taken by a farmer must be practical, reasonable, deliverable and manageable on farm. It would be grossly unfair to financially punish farmers for failure to comply with the requirements of Veterinary Improvement Notices if those requirements are unreasonable, difficult or impossible for a farmer to deliver.”

In relation to bovine TB tests NFU Cymru has consistently advocated annual testing as an alternative to pre-movement testing and welcomed the announcement by the Welsh Assembly Government that the TB Health Check Wales initiative will continue to test all herds in Wales in 2010. However, NFU Cymru realises that all cattle herds in Wales will now also have to comply with pre-movement testing requirements and this will clearly add significantly to the industry’s costs and demands in management terms.

Steve James said, “The Welsh Assembly Government policy on pre-movement testing should be kept under constant review and careful consideration needs to be taken to balance the disease risk against the cost to the industry. NFU Cymru feels that this must be regarded by the Welsh Assembly Government as a temporary measure until it can establish whether pre-movement testing is making a meaningful contribution to the disease situation and we would welcome a full evaluation of pre-movement testing in Wales, including a cost/benefit analysis. We call on the Welsh Assembly Government to progress this work at the earliest opportunity.”

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