Defra has confirmed the badger cull will be extended to seven new areas.
The industry pre-empted the announcement last week and praised Defra for taking decisive action to tackle the spread of bovine TB.
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results, with more than half the country on track to be free of the disease by the end of this Parliament.
“Bovine TB has a devastating impact on farms, which is why we are taking strong action to eradicate the disease, including tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control measures in areas where the disease is rife.
“The veterinary advice and the experience of other countries is clear—we will not be able to eradicate this disease unless we also tackle the reservoir of the disease in the badger population as well as cattle.”
New measures outlined today (August 30) include:
The Government’s chief vet Nigel Gibbens said the cull extension was an essential part of the Government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England.
“Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease control benefits at regional rather than at local levels,” he added.
Defra said 2015 badger control operations in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset were all ‘successful in meeting their targets’.
The Government announced in December that it wanted to see badger control over a wider number of areas in 2016.
The Government has already introduced tougher movement controls and more frequent testing, as well as working with farmers, vets and others to improve biosecurity on farm and when trading.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: "Farmers facing a daily battle against bTB in those areas that have been granted licences for badger control operations this year will welcome the news that finally action is being taken to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife in these areas. Today’s announcement means that badger control will now be taking place in ten per cent of the area where cattle are at the highest risk of contracting bTB.
“There is still a huge amount of work ahead to ensure the eradication of bTB from this country and I would like to take this opportunity to thank farmers for their continued support in working towards this goal."
The NFU said it would consult with its members before submitting its response to the Government consultation on introducing further cattle measures, including more severe skin tests for herds in the area at greatest risk from bTB and increased surveillance testing for all herds in the areas on the edge of the disease spread.
Opponents of the cull, including the RSPCA and the Badger Trust, said there was no evidence to say culling was effective and called on Defra to address cattle to cattle transmission.