Ulster Farmers' Union President and Florencecourt suckler beef and sheep farmer, David Brown, gives his views on the situation with bTB in Fermanagh. 

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) continues to present challenges for our members on a daily basis. The UFU is actively engaging with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister, Andrew Muir, in an effort to refocus his officials on advancing the strategy for eradicating bTB from our farms. In the upcoming weeks, we will be convening with Minister Muir at a farm to underscore the impact of this disease on our members.

The substantial responsibility of addressing bTB rests squarely on the minister's shoulders, and as a union, we are fully dedicated to progressing towards a meaningful eradication initiative that addresses the disease across all affected hosts.

Numerous other regions have witnessed significant reductions in herd infection rates in the years subsequent to implementing effective wildlife intervention programs. I am convinced that addressing wildlife will be the most potent strategy in diminishing the prevalence of bTB in Northern Ireland.

A levy that was in operation in 2023 has equipped the industry with the necessary resources to initiate the process of eradicating bTB. In late 2023, DAERA heeded the direction of then Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris and concentrated their efforts on initiating a consultation which proposed reducing the compensation payments granted to farmers for animals removed under the bTB program.

This decision triggered substantial indignation within our membership, resulting in an unprecedented response to the subsequent consultation on proposed payment reductions. Although the summary of responses document has not yet been released, based on the prevailing sentiment within the industry, we can confidently assert that any such proposal will not be accepted.

Our executive has already taken measures to empower our office bearers with all the necessary resources to ensure that DAERA does not proceed with the suggested payment cuts. The regulatory authority now needs to display a similar level of commitment and drive as demonstrated by the industry in advancing the eradication of the disease. Ultimately, sustained reductions in the costs of the bTB program can only be truly achieved through a decrease in the prevalence of the disease.