10 April 1998

MAFFswitches its funds away from TBtests to R&D

By Catherine Hughes

JUNIOR farm minister Jeff Rooker is aiming to solve the UKs growing TB problem so that more of MAFFs budget can be spent on research rather than testing cattle.

"We cannot, and will not, allow TB to get out of hand and to be used as a reason to restrict cattle exports after the beef export ban is lifted," he said.

"After BSE, the TB problem is the highest priority and we are treating it with the utmost seriousness and working hard to make sure we cover all the issues.

"At the moment, testing costs are four times higher than compensation and research costs. And this balance does not provide the solution to beating the disease. We need to know more about the disease so that we can tackle the problem head on," he told farmers weekly.

The government is due to release its plans on implementing the Krebs report, which proposed a five-year experiment to determine the best way of controlling badger and bovine TB, in June.

"The Krebs report gives us an opportunity to sort out TB once and for all. And it must be right. That is why we are in daily discussions with all interested parties so that its implementation can start, hopefully, by the end of the year."

Midland visit

Mr Rooker recently visited the West Midlands, talking to farmers whose herds are affected by the disease. As a result, Brian Jennings, chairman of the NFU animal health and welfare committee, believes Staffordshire and Derbyshire are now likely to be included in the badger culling trials proposed by the Krebs committee.

He also said that ongoing discussions between MAFF and the EU Commission had fended off a threat of an increased cattle testing programme in the UK because of the rising incidence of the disease.