Thursday, 15 October 2009
Department of Agriculture and Food
Question 57: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the benefits that arise from the approval, by the EU Commission, of Ireland's application for official brucellosis-free status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36062/09]
Question 67: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the value to farmers here arising from the relaxation of various controls following the approval, by the EU Commission, of Ireland's application for official brucellosis-free status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36063/09]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 57 together.
Following the recent EU Commission decision granting Ireland officially brucellosis-free status, I announced a series of significant changes to the Brucellosis Eradication Scheme on 8 September 2009 as follows:
an increase in the age threshold for annual round testing to 24 months;
an increase in the validity period of the pre-movement test from 30 days to 60 days;
an increase in the age-limit for the pre-movement test for female animals from
12 to 18 months and, in view of the lower risk attached to their movement, to
24 months for bulls;
an increase in the "one sale" rule for bulls from 12 to 24 months.
In addition with effect from 1 January 2010, dairy herds scheduled to be tested in 2010 and 2011 will now only be tested every second year. This will exclude some 550,000 animals each year from the round test and, when taken in conjunction with the increase in the age threshold to 24 months which is being introduced immediately, will remove some 1.35 million animals from the annual testing programme.
There are considerable benefits arising from these changes in relation to public health, the alleviation of distress to farmers whose herds are affected, the relaxation of restrictions on trade in live cattle and a significant reduction in the cost of testing to farmers. On the latter point, the revised arrangements will remove the need to test approximately a quarter of all eligible animals during the course of the annual herd test. In addition, the extension of the pre-movement test to 60 days combined with the increase in the age threshold to 18 months for female animals for this test will result in further significant savings for farmers. The total saving from these changes is estimated to be in the region of €5 million.
The attainment of official brucellosis-free status was a landmark in the history of disease eradication in Ireland and I would like to thank everybody involved in this successful outcome for their co-operation and sustained effort over many years. However, there is no room for complacency with regard to this disease and we must continue to be vigilant and ensure that we retain our high animal health status which, as I have said, has significant benefits for all concerned, in terms of on-farm costs, public health and market access.