ANIMAL disease levies are set to increase to meet the spiraling cost of brucellosis compensation but the increase won't be as high as feared.ANIMAL disease levies are set to increase to meet the spiraling cost of brucellosis compensation but the increase won't be as high as feared.
An expected trade-off on levies, compensation rates and who foots the bill for the 30 day pre-movement test is likely to emerge over the coming week.
With farmers objecting to carrying the cost of brucellosis testing its now thought likely that the Department will carry some of the cost of the test its possible that the Department may carry up to two thirds of the total test costs, estimated at £3 million.
The thorny issue of cuts in compensation levels has also to be resolved with farmers opposed to any drop in compensation levels.
The uncertainty over when the 30 day test is to introduced is affecting the marketing of stock, according to mart representatives.
Gus Egan, chairman of Associated Livestock Marts and manager of Loughrea Mart claimed that the proposals on testing and the lack of clarity from the Department are causing fear among farmers which is prompting earlier marketing of females and particularly cows than would otherwise be the case.
A top level meeting between the ICMSA and the Department last week is thought to have clinched the issue of payment for testing, with a proposal to accept a one-sale per test in exchange for the Department carrying a major part of the £3m cost of the 30-day test.
However, the association refused to be drawn on the meeting.
Ann Scanlon, president of the Irish Veterinary Union, urged the Department of Agriculture to accept the principle that the Department and not farmers should pay for the pre-movement test.
She said vets were very concerned about the animal welfare and human health issues arising from the rise in brucellosis levels.
Meanwhile, the ICOS is urging an early resolution to the uncertainty over testing. Maurice Colbert of the ICOS marts committee said it was important for an early decision to be made about the new test so that uncertainties in the marketplace could be reduced.
However, he rejected the proposal to place a restriction of one sale per test, claiming that it would cause huge administrative difficulties for the marts.
He added that brucellosis levels demand that a decision be made on pre-movement testing.
However, he called for reasonable notice to be given for the introduction of the test with March 1 a more realistic start date than February.
Gus Egan of the Associated Livestock Marts claimed farmers in his area of Laughrea feel that the proposed brucellosis test will hit them very severly as the incidence of brucellosis in the areas is very low.
While farmers accept the testing of breeding stock they feel it should not apply to all female animals like store heifers and weanlings, he said.
Any proposal on one stock movement is especially unpopular, he added. ``If the Department imposes a 30 day test on 10 month olds and put in place one stock movement, there will be an uproar.''
He feels that the 30-day test will not cure the problem and that the Department should have continued with their milk-ring testing.
``The Department made a mistake and now farmers are expected to carry the can'', he said.
He says that one of the reason why the situation has got out of hand is because some herds have refused to depopulate - because they could not agreed the compensation.