Campaigning by the NFU (National Farmers' Union) has succeeded in getting the controversial issue of pre-movement testing referred to Defra's Ministerial Challenge Panel on Regulation.

Defra ministers have agreed to the challenge, which will focus on the decision to introduce pre-movement TB testing of younger animals from March next year.

Gloucestershire dairy farmer and the NFU's TB spokesman Jan Rowe said: "This is extremely good news and follows months of campaigning by the NFU. The review will give us a rare opportunity to set out formally our very real concerns about this scheme and about extending it."

The NFU says the move to lower the age of animals requiring testing from 15 months to 42 days will be a logistical nightmare for farmers and vets, and stressful for young animals. It also wants to see evidence that lowering the testing age will make a real contribution towards disease control.

Mr Rowe added: "Pre-movement testing is imposing a huge penalty on farmers and picking up so few animals that we firmly believe the costs far outweigh any benefits.

"Investment by Defra in an efficient tracing system would provide a more cost-effective solution."

The NFU is running an online survey of farmers looking at the costs - both financial and in terms of resources and time - of pre-movement testing. The results are expected to make useful reading for the challenge panel.

Defra's Ministerial Challenge Panel on Regulation is expected to look at the pre-testing issue early in the new year.

Pre-movement testing is being introduced in England and Wales in two phases. In the first phase, cattle under 15 months of age are exempt from pre-movement testing. The second phase, to be introduced from March 1 2007, will see this exemption removed, bringing the age for pre-movement testing for eligible cattle to 42 days.

National Farmers' Union

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