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Minister Coughlan announces significant changes to Animal Health Regime

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., has announced significant changes to the animal health regime together with revising aspects of the valuation system and the legislation on dealers. The new measures, which were outlined by the Minister on Friday evening at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, are designed to lessen the burden on farmers and streamline procedures safeguarding animal health.

The Minister, who had initiated a review of existing control measures over recent months, confirmed that she was now in a position to: -

  • exempt bulls from fattening herds which go direct for slaughter from the Brucellosis testing requirements,
  • remove the potential penalty - of between 2% and 25% - on the valuation element of compensation where bought-in cattle are not post-movement tested,
  • extend the range of marts used for calculating guideline prices and to make technical changes to the way that suckler cows are valued,
  • raise the ceilings for individual animals from €2540 to €2800 and from €3175 to €3500 for a pedigree stock bull,
  • reduce the charge to €50 for appeals by farmers for 1 - 4 cattle with pro-rata rates for numbers above that,
  • define a dealer in cattle and pigs as a person who buys and resells within 30 days rather than the current 45 days, and
  • exclude from the scope of the dealers legislation those who buy and re-sell relatively small numbers of animals annually and also those who act exclusively as agents.

Highlighting the significant improvement in animal disease rates in recent years, Minister Coughlan said, "A number of serious animal diseases have threatened both consumer confidence and the industry in recent years. The controls we have in place to protect our farm animals are however some of the best in Europe. As a result, and with the co-operation of farmers and the industry, we have seen a significant improvement in the overall disease situation and particularly with issues such as BSE, Brucellosis and TB."

The Minister said that notwithstanding the relatively positive outlook, the sector should not become complacent and that the premature dropping of still necessary controls measures must be avoided. She said that other non-regulated diseases must also be addressed and that the sector must be prepared to deal with on-going threats from an increasing number of exotic diseases. Minister Coughlan confirmed that she intended to progress a Herd Health Initiative this year to deal with non-regulated diseases. She also said that she would continue to update and refine contingency measures to ensure that any disease threat can be dealt with effectively.

"I am confident that the changes I am announcing today will lessen the burden on farmers and streamline procedures, while also making sure that we retain one of the best animal health regimes in Europe", she said.

Concluding, Minister Coughlan confirmed to delegates at the Ard Fheis that she would also review the Brucellosis regime later this year after the calving season has ended. She also said that she intended to give further consideration to proposals for change to the supplementary compensation schemes during her value for money expenditure review, already underway on the TB scheme.

23 March, 2007

Date Released: 23 March 2007