Farmers in Somerset and Gloucestershire have been given the right to continue culling badgers to keep on top of bovine TB.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove made the decision after a consultation on the issue which closed in February.
The news follows a worrying ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office which puts farmers taking part in the culls at risk of being targeted by violent animal rights activists.
An NFU spokesman said: “We welcome the announcement regarding supplementary culling.
“It is important that the disease control benefits which are achieved through culling are maintained and the chief veterinary officer has advised this is the best way to help achieve that in areas which have completed a cull.”
The British Veterinary Association sounded a more cautious note, calling for questions on the cull timeframes, numbers and mid-cull review methodology to be answered.
The decision came as Farming Minister George Eustice announced a consultation would open on several other new measures to bear down on bTB.
To catch the disease in herds as early as possible, the Government has proposed the introduction of a ‘more risk-based’ TB testing regime in the High Risk Area, with six-monthly routine surveillance tests.
Lower risk herds where owners can demonstrate good biosecurity will be subject to less frequent testing.
Other proposals include adjustments to the compensation system to ‘improve incentives for farmers to reduce disease risks on their farms’, and allowing farmers to retain in-calf TB test positive cattle for up to 60 days, subject to bio-security controls.
Healthier supplies of the BCG vaccine have also allowed the re-opening of the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme.
Private groups intending to run vaccination schemes will be able to apply for grants later this year for projects to run next summer.
The NFU spokesman said the union would ‘study the proposals in detail’ and consult widely before submitting its response.