The NFU has called for reassurance that delays in publishing a report into last autumn’s pilot badger culls will not affect plans to extend the bovine TB control policy to other areas.

The union’s ruling council has passed a resolution proposed by farmers in the union’s south-west region seeking reassurance that a delay in publishing the independent report would not affect government plans to roll out the policy more widely this year.

“We wish to raise our considerable concern on the timescale of delivering roll-out for 2014, and on behalf of members we would urge government for clarity soonest, along with firm commitment and simplification of the process where possible,” it said.

The independent panel is examining findings from two pilot culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to assess whether shooting badgers is safe, humane and effective.

The pilot culls carried out in Somerset and Gloucestershire last year failed to meet the government target of a 70% kill – despite being granted an extended timetable.

Animal welfare campaigners oppose culling and the operation in both pilot areas was disrupted by the activities of animal rights activists.

Government ministers have insisted that the culls were effective but say the independent panel must report its findings before the policy can be rolled out to other areas.

Natural England is seeking applications from culling operators and landowners for licences to cull badgers as part of government plans to extend the badger cull to more areas.

The government agency is advertising for “expressions of interest” from anyone interested in submitting potential new areas for a badger cull this year and in 2015.

Dorset is widely believed to be one of the areas where a future badger cull could take place.

A badger cull in Dorset is looking “increasingly likely” , according to the county’s police and crime commissioner.

Martyn Underhill said a badger cull was a “big thing” on his radar and it could be rolled out in the county in 2015.

DEFRA said no decision would be made on the roll-out before the independent panels report had been submitted.