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APRIL 2019
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Pat McCormack
ICMSA
Whether bio-security
or water quality, the
State must meet its
own standards

Following our attendance at the most recent meeting
around the latest TB Eradication Programme, ICMSA is
left with the uncomfortable feeling that what we have
to describe as a `penny wise, pound foolish' attitude
might undermine the programme before it has even
begun in earnest. A number of problems are already
apparent, and we will try and convince the Department
that if it is serious about getting farmer `buy-in' to the
programme then it must be seen to genuinely address
very legitimate concerns on the part of the farmers and
their representative organisations. The very first thing
that had to be appreciated is that programmes of this
type if they are serious always involve frontloaded
expenditure. It is in the initial stages of these programmes
that that the expenditure is heaviest because that's when
the incidences are going to be higher; as the reactors are
removed and as the `inconclusives' are worked through
then the expenditure falls. That is just a matter of logic
but the Department seems reluctant to accept that reality
and seem to want to avoid frontloading the funding.
ICMSA is also very concerned by, and will not accept,
the current proposals that appear intent on penalising
farmers under various headings while not addressing
their legitimate fears. We must see a comparable level
of focus being given to farmer concerns as we see
proposed penalties and various restrictions.
We are convinced that `inconclusives' should be
removed with the clear provisio that if no lesions are
discovered after slaughter that the herd is not restricted.
The new programme should be all about lowering
the possibility of infection and that means that the
`inconclusives' must be removed because that action,
in of itself, lowers the risk and means that the likelihood
of the Department having to compensate later in the
programme is considerably lessened. We will also insist
on the Department accepting a much more direct
linkage between wildlife factors specifically badgers
and deer and the rise in infections. There seems to
be a marked reluctance on the Department's part to
put in place a comprehensive wildlife programme and
this is in sharp contrast to their strategy of proposing
penalties for farmers. We are surely entitled to point out
that If the Department is so concentrated on farmers
accepting responsibility for their farm's bio-security then
we're entitled to ask who's assuming the risk for bio-
security on the state's vast parks and reserves? ICMSA
and its members want to see TB eradicated, it has cost
farmers very dearly over the last nearly 70 years, but the
Department is going to have to amend their proposals
to take account of farmers' genuine concerns and
get their `buy-in' to the programme. Farmers will not
buy-in to the current proposals because their legitimate
concerns are not being addressed and dealt with.
On the Nitrates issue, In exactly the same way as we're
entitled to ask the State about its own bio-security on
its land when it starts focusing so heavily on farmers'
responsibility for bio-security on their farms, we will not
permit farmers to be unfairly targeted on the question of
water quality. We only need to look at the problem at the
Dublin Ringsend plant recently and the questions raised
about the management of sewage treatment plants
across the state to know that simple fairness demands
that those agencies that insist on farmers meeting
additional and onerous regulations are themselves in
compliance with their own regulations. We will not
permit additional regulations to be imposed on farmers
as mitigation for the failures of others.
ICMSA understands that the main focus of the Nitrates
Review will be on the compulsory use of low emissions
spreading equipment, but the Department will have to
take account of practical problems associated with this
equipment. We note the `low emissions' argument but
there are logistical issues around that in terms of the
numbers of contractors with the equipment, and also
the consistency of the slurry itself, so a focus on the use
of more slurry during the Spring period may be a better
and more practical option. In addition, maintaining grant
aid on low emissions slurry spreading equipment must
be a priority. Significant investments in environmental
improvements have taken place on farms over the
last number of years and the Nitrates Review must
recognise this fact and ensure that economically and
environmentally sustainable farming can continue.
Pat McCormack
The world's first national
food sustainability programme
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