Written answers

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Department of Agriculture and Food

Animal Diseases

9:00 pm

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 135: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to progress the herd health initiative. [4934/09]

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Question 144: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the function of Animal Health Ireland, which he formally launched recently. [4931/09]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 144 together.

My Department has been actively progressing an initiative to improve the health of the national herd and flock for many years and this was given added impetus by the inclusion in the Programme for Government of a commitment to introduce a herd health initiative to deal with non-regulated diseases. To advance these objectives, I recently launched Animal Health Ireland which aims to improve overall animal health standards, thereby enhancing on-farm productivity and securing improved profitability for farmers through a coordinated national approach to animal health. The main stakeholders are fully supportive of this initiative and have agreed to financially support it.

The function of Animal Health Ireland (AHI) will be to:

develop effective national plans for action in the area of unregulated disease

coordinate and prioritise research projects and initiatives in respect of action programmes undertaken

build upon and coordinate the national infrastructure that will enable industry, at all levels, to take appropriate and effective action.

My Department will meet some initial costs of AHI and will provide a small number of Executive staff to assist the interim Steering Group, currently being chaired by Mr Mike Magan. This Group, which has been selected on the basis of competencies, will oversee the initiative and a Stakeholders Group comprising representatives of the organisations that are co-financing it will in turn oversee the Steering Group. Work has commenced on the administrative arrangements to be put in place to support AHI, which will operate independently of my Department.

Animal Health Ireland represents a significant change from the long-established Government-led model that has characterised animal health policy to date in Ireland. AHI provides a unique opportunity to develop an improved understanding of current practices and future trends in international best practice in the area of herd health and affords those organisations — including farmers, producers, processors, and support/advisory service — actively participating in the project to build on the significant resources, informational infrastructure, capabilities and expertise already available within the range of organisations. And following on from that, developing a national strategy to take appropriate action in the area of non-regulatory animal health which in effect will allow industry to a large extent shape its own future.

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