29 March 2002

Farming in fear as TB is on the rise

By Robert Davies

BEEF and dairy producers are farming in a state of fear as the number of bovine tuberculosis cases rises, according to the NFU Cymru-Wales.

The union painted the picture of farming in Wales as it presented a six-point control strategy for bovine tuberculosis to the Welsh Assembly.

Although animal health issues have not been devolved to Cardiff, NFU Cymru said it hoped that the assemblys minister for rural affairs Carwyn Jones could exert pressure on DEFRA.

"It is absolutely imperative that action is taken now to defeat the advancing incidence of this disease," said Dai Davies, deputy president. "Farmers fear that their herds will succumb but feel powerless to prevent it. We are also concerned about the distress and disruption caused on farms already under restriction."

The unions plan calls for extra resources to clear the backlog of tests resulting from foot-and-mouth regulations, and the swift restoration of routine testing.

It wants reactors to be removed within 14 days, and much improved reporting of test results so that farmers and their representatives can monitor incidence of the disease.

The union is very conscious of the fact that most of its members blame badgers for the spread of TB. But it is equally aware of the sensitivity of calling for culling so, without mentioning the carrier host, the suggested strategy calls for immediate action "given the delays in the Krebs trials".

It wants a trial site in Wales, a suggestion rejected by former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, and adequate resources for research into TB and the development of an effective vaccine.

"The growth of TB problems outside the trial areas means that the government must put in place measures to halt the spread as soon as possible," insisted Mr Davies, whose own dairy herd grazes within the Carmarthen TB hot spot.

Meanwhile the State Veterinary Service has said it will examine what other measures could be employed to control TB in areas outside existing trial sites.

Giving the first hint that the government was taking seriously the steep increase in reported cases in hot spot areas, including at least three in Wales, Mr Jones said he hoped to make a statement on new action soon.

He has already agreed to employ temporary veterinary inspectors to clear the tuberculin test backlog, but insisted that there were no plans to establish Krebs trial sites in Wales. &#42