Concern about the future of the Government’s 25-year TB strategy was a key theme of the NFU election hustings in Skelmersdale, Lancashire last week.
All seven of the candidates for the NFU top jobs were keen to keep up the pressure on Ministers to follow through with the strategy, with some fearing Defra Secretary Michael Gove could be wavering in his commitment to the badger culls.
Current livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe, who is standing for both vice and deputy president, said: “We have got to work our backsides off to make sure Gove does not change his position, because at the minute he is on the edge.
“We do not want any reviews, because if we get to that stage, we will struggle.”
Presidential hopeful Minette Batters shared Mr Sercombe’s concerns.
“Michael Gove is going to call a review of all TB policy, so the culling is in a very difficult place”, she said.
She also argued it would be more difficult for MPs to undo culling policy, perhaps through an amendment to the Government’s Animal Welfare Bill, if funding for animal health as a whole was ringfenced.
Rival for the presidency Guy Smith, who is standing for the deputy president position too, had his own concerns about cash.
“We need a rollout of the cull, but I am worried we have not got a very robust funding strategy behind it if we do extensively roll it out”, he said.
Losing €30 million of TB funding from the EU in September was a worry for dairy board chair Michael Oakes, who has thrown his hat in the ring for both the vice and deputy presidency.
“This is a lot of the compensation”, he said.
“If we are told we are on salvage value, that potentially would be considerably less and much more painful for some businesses which have found a way to live with it.”
A Defra spokesman said: “We are taking strong action to tackle TB through our adaptive 25-year strategy which we keep under constant review.
“We will continue to work with and listen to a wide range of individuals and groups which want to put forward their views on the best ways to achieve the strategy’s aim – eradicating TB in cattle in England by 2038.”