The Department announced plans to provide financial support for privately-led badger vaccination projects in the Edge Area, which lies between the High Risk and Low Risk Areas, in its TB Eradication strategy, published in April.
It has confirmed that a new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) will be launched later this year.
It is likely to include long-term match funding for badger vaccination projects and money for training, although final details, including overall funding, have not been finalised.
In the meantime, Defra is reopening the existing £250,000 2014 Badger Vaccination Fund for application and is limiting this to the Edge Area.
To apply for the existing Badger Vaccination Fund for 2014, schemes must involve two or more adjacent cattle farms in the Edge Area counties of Hampshire, East Sussex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire.
There is no limit on funding available for individual applications from this pot.
Money has been available to support badger vaccination, which involves trapping and injecting badgers with the BCG vaccine, for some time but uptake has been relatively low. So far this year, just £20,000 has been awarded for training out of the £250,000 available.
Many farmers in heavily infected areas are sceptical about the effectiveness of vaccination as it does not address disease in infected badgers.
Defra is hopeful there will be greater interest under its new scheme in the Edge Area, where vaccination is seen as a means of slowing the onward spread from the High Risk Area.
Under the new scheme any licensed badger vaccination projects should be coordinated and delivered privately.
Other than being within the Edge Area, a small number of supporting criteria will apply, including undertaking to vaccinate across a minimum area and to vaccinate every year for a minimum number of years.
Defra is working with stakeholder groups to design the detail of the new scheme to deliver a scheme that makes an ‘effective contribution to combatting TB in cattle’.
However, Defra said it appreciated the ‘organisational and logistical challenge that the timing of the launch of the new scheme presents to groups wishing to vaccinate in 2014’ and pledged to do ‘all it reasonably can’ to support groups making bids to start this year.