The Farmers’ Union of Wales is calling for much greater emphasis to be given to the economic impacts of a bovine TB breakdown following the announcement by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, that there would be a review of the compensation regime in Wales.
“To date, discussions and programmes on controlling the disease in Wales have almost entirely centred on animal health issues,” said Farmers’ Union of Wales senior policy officer Dr Hazel Wright. “We believe that a much greater emphasis should be paid to the economic issues surrounding bovine TB.”
Now the FUW has written to the Minister proposing the establishment of a Wales Bovine TB Economics Task and Finish Group, at arm's length from animal health, to provide robust, Welsh specific, information on the financial impact of a TB breakdown and the subsequent mental health impacts on farmers.
“Under the Well-being of Future Generations Act, the Welsh Government is obligated to take account of the long-term impact of their decision making. Our very real concern is that future compensation policies, which provide for poorer compensation, will undoubtedly increase mental health issues and poverty amongst the farming community in Wales, and this is in direct opposition to the obligations and aims of the Act”, she said.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public bodies to work better with people and communities in order to prevent problems such as poverty and health inequalities. Given the recent announcement of a review of the compensation regime in Wales, the FUW believes it is imperative that the full economic consequences of a TB outbreak are properly understood before any changes are made to the budget.
“We know that issues including loss of stock, problems with cash flow, costs of housing and feeding additional stock, loss of business control and uncertainty over the future, inevitably impact on the emotional well-being of farming families. However, the true impact is likely to have been underestimated.”
The FUW’s proposed Wales Bovine TB Economics Task and Finish Group would be utilised to inform the future of bovine TB compensation and to ensure that any changes to the budget remain in line with those principles outlined in the Well-being Act.
“Farmers trying to operate their business under a bovine TB breakdown are at breaking point. Given that mental health is inextricably linked to farm business sustainability and solvency, we must fully understand the economic consequences of this disease,” said Dr Wright.