THE NATIONAL Beef Association has called on beef producers in the West Country to press Chancellor Gordon Brown for more decisive action on bovine tuberculosis.

With costs to the taxpayer continuing to escalate, the NBA has produced a letter for farmers to sign that will be sent to the Chancellor, urging him to act.

The letter claims the government wasted 132m of taxpayers’ money on its TB policy in 2004-2005, and it says that the figure will rise to 155m next year.

“We are not naturally politically active people, but the current situation is intolerable to us because it is driving farmers like ourselves closer to the edge of ruin and despair,” the letter says.

It blames the growing badger population in south-west England as the main cause of TB, and describes the number of badgers in the area as frightening.

“Cattle which have TB are killed immediately, but infected badgers not only spread the disease but themselves suffer lingering and painful deaths. In view of this we feel urgent and immediate action is imperative.”

South west NBA chairman Bill Harper said he hoped to collect about 2000 letters and deliver them to the chancellor in a fortnight’s time.

TB affects almost 6000 farms in the UK, and the NBA claims that the government does not appreciate the urgency of the situation.

The letter calls on Mr Brown to resume targeted culling of diseased badgers, introduce legal action against anyone found interfering with badger culling work, and allow DEFRA the resources to manage and control the disease.

“We believe the health and welfare of badger and cattle populations depends on such action,” it says.

Meanwhile, the south west NFU has called a stakeholder meeting on Apr 14 to review the TB situation with the aim of reaching an industry-wide consensus on the next step. The union plans to build on the current momentum and ensure that bovine TB is an issue in the General Election.