THE WELSH Assembly is to establish a TB action group to deliver short-term measures for tackling the disease, and to look at longer-term options.

Key organisations, including farming unions, Welsh YFCs, the Countryside Council for Wales and the RSPCA have been invited to nominate representatives.

These will look at radical recommendations made in a report on an inquiry by the Assembly‘s Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee.

Carwyn Jones, the minister responsible, told members debating the report that he was determined to tackle the spread of TB, and keen for all the recommendations to be examined in detail.

Some action would be taken immediately, he said. Routine testing intervals would be recalculated to ensure they complied with EU legislation and provided robust protection.

Livestock movement restrictions would be imposed when a herd‘s routine test was overdue, and he promised “a more rigorous and systematic approach” to identifying and dealing with potential new TB hotspots.

Mr Jones also announced the introduction of rigorous testing schedules for new and reformed cattle herds, and added that the measures had been agreed with DEFRA and the Scottish Executive.

The new action group will assess the feasibility of compulsory pre-movement testing, and whether intensive treatment areas should be established within hotspots, where some badger culling could take place.

Arwyn Owen, policy director at the Farmers Union of Wales, welcomed the ministerial announcement as much needed positive action to check the worrying spread of TB.

“We have already nominated our representative on the action group and will do all we can to speed its work,” Mr Owen said.

But Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru‘s shadow rural affairs minister, said it was vital that all the recommendations should be implemented immediately.

She insisted that cherry picking the apparently simplest and cheapest elements would be completely ineffective, and insulting to the farming businesses devastated by TB and to all those who put so much effort into contributing to the committee‘s report.