The news of a suspected case of BSE in Co. Louth is indeed worrying. Our first thoughts must be with the farmer concerned and their family at this stressful time as they await a second round of test results next week.
Our response, as politicians, as media, or whatever our role, must however be proportionate and evidence based. Our multi billion export driven agri-food sector, which is of such benefit to Counties like Louth, Meath and Westmeath is, after all, at stake.
Rather than scare mongering, the fact that this suspected case has been detected, and that the animal did not enter the food chain, are important facts to be highlighted and represent the robust nature of the ongoing monitoring systems we have in place which put public health and safety at the centre of all that we do, making Irish beef, and Irish food products generally, so desirable to an international buyer.
This week sees the conclusion of important negotiations between the Department and the main farming organisations on a new Farmers Charter. This again highlights the commitment to standards that underpins the approach taken both by the State and its farmers.
The Charter is an agreement between both parties on improving the standards, delivery targets, protocols and timelines for the Department’s schemes and services, including on-farm inspections, and brings clarity to the arrangements around inspections.
The new Charter will now come into immediate effect and will be published. It will remain in place until 2020 coinciding with the lifetime of the current Pillar I and Pillar II schemes, and will be overseen by a Monitoring Committee involving both the Department and the main farming organizations.