THE SOUTH-WEST Regional Development Agency has commissioned a new study into the impact of bovine TB on the region‘s rural economy.

Over the past decade, a sharp rise in the number of TB cases in the region has had a growing economic impact on the agricultural and related industries.

The aim of the research is to identify the main economic impacts of the disease in the region and possible future effects.

Exeter University will carry out the investigation through a series of interviews with farmers and other interested parties over the next few months.

It will then publish the results at the end of February 2005.

An RDA spokesperson, said: “One of our priorities is to address the changing needs of rural economies to help create the right conditions for lasting economic success.”

The RDA has formed a steering group to help take the study forward.

The bodies involved, include the NFU, Country Land and Business Association, Tenant Farmers Association, State Veterinary Service and DEFRA.

Martin Turner, assistant director of Exeter University‘s Centre for Rural Research, said he would be examining the costs incurred by farms under TB movement restrictions.

He would also look at the impact on tourism, markets, feed and bedding sales and any social consequences from TB.

The research would be carried out in conjunction with Reading University, said Mr Turner.