Seanad Éireann - Volume 110 - 19 December, 1985

Bovine Diseases (Levies) Regulations, 1985: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:

Bovine Diseases (Levies) Regulations, 1985

copies of which were laid in draft before the Seanad on the 13th day of December, 1985.

—(Senator Dooge).

[1101] An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I understand Senator Lennon was in possession.

Mr. Cregan: My apologies for Senator Lennon. I understand he is held up at another meeting. Perhaps we could pass over to the other side of the House. There are other Senators interested in speaking.

Mr. T. Hussey: I do not think they are on our side.

Mr. Cregan: There are two more speakers who wish to speak. I apologise to the House for the delay. They are on the way.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach Shall I suspend the House?

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hegarty): I would rather not because we are tied up in the afternoon.

Mr. Cregan: I am very sorry, a Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Business suspended at 11.55 a.m. and resumed at 11.58 a.m.

Mr. Quealy: I am sorry, I did not realise we had moved on to this item. I apologise to the Chair. I am a bit disappointed that levies are being retained for the next 12 months at the existing level especially at a time when farmers' incomes have dropped by 10 per cent. Most farmers expected them to be halved. Considering the progress that has been made in testing and in the eradication of TB since the new scheme came into operation it is worth continuing with it no matter how painful it may be.

I would ask the Minister to continue with the 60-day test. It is an advantage to have the period of sale extended. Under the 30-day test farmers had only about three weeks in which they could sell cattle. Seeing that levies are being retained I would appeal for more realistic compensation to be paid for reactors, especially for young animals. There was [1102] more progress made in the sixties with TB testing when cattle were paid for at market value. Farmers with young animals are not being adequately compensated because the profit from small animals is very little. I am aware of this because I see small animals coming into factories and making as little as £30 or £40. Some of those calves cost over £200.

I appeal, especially in the case of younger animals, to go back to the system of buying at market value. There must be some reason why there are loopholes in the scheme and why there are abuses. There are occasions when cattle have a valid 30 or 60-day test at some of the marts and when they are tested again in a herd test during that 30-day period those cattle turn up as reactors. There must be some loophole that has not been checked out as thoroughly as it should be. People are losing money on selling those reactors to the factories and not receiving adequate compensation. With cattle prices falling they may come in line but when cattle are dear compensation is not adequate. There should be more compensation for farmers who have reactors, especially young reactors.

Mr. Browne: I would like to say a few words on the bovine eradication scheme because it is something that has widespread effects on the country. We have two different angles on this. Some people say it is costing far too much and we are spending far too much money on it. For those who are directly affected by it, the farmers, it is quite a scourge. We must forget about emotion and sensationalism and stop talking about people making money and abusing the system. I simply ask the Minister to ensure that this scourge be wiped out as quickly as possible and that the best value for money be obtained.

Mr. Hegarty: I wish to thank Senators for their fairly wide-ranging contributions. Of course we would agree, if we could afford it, to discontinue this in the morning but we believe, because we are moving so well, that it is worth this small penalty in order to see the end of this terrible scourge. We hope that with this [1103] new drive TB eradication will not be an ongoing thing.

Senator Smith referred to the increased incidence of bovine TB and he made the point that it may be as a result of more intensive testing. I agree with him. As indicated in the opening statement at the end of November the overall disease problem was 3.62 per cent which is 6,900 herds. At the end of the last full round in 1983 the problem was 2.78. What this means is that this year's intensive testing programme is helping us to identify more precisely the extent of the disease problem. It gives of a sound basis for making significant progress in 1986 and 1987.

With regard to the double levies being retained the Minister explained this in the Dáil yesterday. He said that in deciding to retain the levies at the current level the Government have had to take into account the overall budget proposals for 1986 and the fact that there has been a substantial fall in revenue in the year just ending. I do not need to remind any of you how difficult a year 1985 was and, in fairness I have to remind the House of the range of measures introduced by the Government in recent months to try to alleviate the position of farmers who suffered the worst effects of the bad weather. They were a help but many people are critical of them. It was an indication of our sympathy with the scene.

Various speakers referred to the 60-day test. We have given an undertaking to review the situation at the end of March. I feel that if co-operation is maintained we will be happy to look at this favourably. One important point we have to keep in mind about disease eradication and about being seen to be serious about it is the fact that we have access to quite a lot of markets abroad and they are aware of the efforts we are making with regard to disease eradication and our general attitude towards meat and meat products. We have a very high rating abroad. That is the scenario we and, I am sure, everybody in this House would like to see continued.

[1104] Some speakers referred to the controlled collection of animals. We are doing this in some pilot areas at present. Basically the idea is that we would be looking to co-ops and people like that to pick up animals. When we talk about badgers and all sorts of wildlife causing problems that may well be in certain areas and it is something we are monitoring very carefully. There are some very suspicious areas indeed where badgers are concerned but we have to say that the spread of disease by and large is laterally from one farm to another and also by dealers picking up animals and these animals not ending up where they should. While the Department can do a certain amount of policing, the Department cannot watch every deal as closely as they would like. I have made that point in the Dáil more than once. Farmers as a body in a particular area must accept that they have a problem and face up to it themselves. They must be prepared to get together with the veterinary people, with the Department and admit that they have a disease problem in their herd and even put up a notice to that effect, in other words to warn people with clean herds to keep out and intensify hygiene standards where people are coming on to the farm. Above all, they should arrange between themselves how the animals are to be brought into the factory. We had that kind of co-operation in north Cork and several other areas and we have had dramatic results.

Senator Hussey asked if there were any changes contemplated in disease eradication as outlined. The answer is no. The programme is going well and already some 150,000 herds, almost 80 per cent of the national herd, have been tested. There is general support for the programme from all quarters and a high level of co-operation. Senator Hussey also made the point about quick reactor removal. We agree with him. Under the new programme 10 days are allowed from the day of punching to removal of reactors. In nearly all cases this has been achieved and it is a big improvement from [1105] the former 20 or 30-day intervals. Prosecutions are being stepped up in accordance with the commitment of the national plan. All cases of detected breaches of the law and regulations relating to disease eradication are being vigorously pursued.

A number of Senators referred to research. As the House is aware, we have set up research liaison between the veterinary college, the Department, the ordinary veterinarians and the AFT. This is working well.

Question put and agreed to.