Tuesday, 15 May 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
228. Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the financial support he can give to farmers who cannot sell their store cattle due to the closure of the marts caused by the foot and mouth crisis; and if a package can be offered to assist those families who are now suffering extreme hardship due to these circumstances. [13735/01]
229. Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development when livestock marts will be allowed to operate again under strict control; and the plans he has to alleviate difficult situations for full-time farmers and their families. [13738/01]
I have, in recent weeks, made a number of adjustments to the foot and mouth disease controls, based on recommendations from the expert group and subject to strict protocols being adhered to. For example, recent adjustments have been made to allow the movement of stock bulls, to allow the movement of cattle from feedlots, and between fragments of the same holding and, most recently, to allow farm to farm cattle sales. Marts may also be used for the assembly of cattle, sheep and pigs going direct for slaughter.
I am satisfied that these measures will go some way towards relieving the pressure on many farmers. There are no funds available to me to provide compensation for farmers affected by these controls but qualifying farm families may avail of the farm assist scheme.
As for the general resumption of mart operations, the expert group has not, for the present, made any recommendations in this regard and while I am conscious of the pressures on farmers, I am equally conscious that a further outbreak of foot and mouth disease in this country would have far more serious consequences for the farming community and for the economy generally.
For this reason I do not intend to relax controls indiscriminately. However, I will take appropriate measures in relation to the phased resumption of marts when the expert group, on the basis of a  risk assessment, makes recommendations in this regard.
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