Bovine TB compensation paid to farmers 'unsustainable', Minister says

Farmers have criticised Minister Lesley Griffiths use of the word 'unsustainable'
Farmers have criticised Minister Lesley Griffiths use of the word 'unsustainable'

2018 to 2019 saw ‘unsustainable’ levels of bovine TB compensation paid to farmers, the Welsh government has said.

Around £14.5m in compensation was paid to Welsh farmers in 2018-2019, new figures show. During 2017-2018, government paid out £11.7m.

Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths updated the National Assembly on the Bovine TB Eradication Programme, which was launched 18 months ago.

She said the Welsh government is proposing a review of the current TB compensation regime, aimed at promoting 'good farming practice while discouraging bad practice'.

Farmers have criticised the Minister's use of the word 'unsustainable'. NFU Cymru said the word is 'galling' for farmers to hear, and highlighted concerns at any proposed review in the compensation regime.

Instead, the union blamed the Welsh government’s 'failure' to implement a 'holistic policy' that effectively eradicates the disease.

Rise in cattle slaughtered

Figures also show a rise of 12 percent in animals slaughtered, an increase amounting to 11,233 cattle.

Meanwhile, there was a 5 percent decrease in new incidents of bovine TB in previously unaffected herds, amounting to 746.

NFU Cymru said the increase in the number of cattle slaughtered is 'worrying', and is an indicator that the current strategy is not having a 'sufficient impact on this serious problem'.

NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones, who went to Cardiff to hear the Minister deliver her statement, said: “While Welsh government can point towards relative success in the Low TB Area in North West Wales, this is of no consolation whatsoever to those based in the hotspots, both in High and some Intermediate areas, where bovine TB continues to cause untold stress and concern.

“We cannot forget that the facts and figures on spreadsheets and data dashboards do not truly reflect the level of suffering being experienced by farming families in many parts of Wales.

“The Minister’s statement alludes to the fact that we all need to work together to eradicate TB in Wales and while NFU Cymru agrees with this statement, the reality is that the approach to tackling bovine TB in Wales is not a ‘true’ partnership approach.”

He added: “Farmers are the ones bearing the financial costs through additional cattle controls and restrictions while the reservoir of disease in wildlife remains relatively untouched. The refreshed approach was supposed to address this issue but sadly it does not.”

Look at England's model

Mr Jones said Wales should look over the border to England to see how an 'effective, collaborative approach' can be put in place to tackle bovine TB.

Defra has worked with the farming industry as part of the strategy in England, giving the NFU and farmers time to prepare and submit licence applications.

Preliminary figures suggest this is leading to a reduction of the disease in a number of those cull areas.

NFU Cymru has urged the Welsh government to look at the effectiveness of the model adopted in England.