At least 3,000 agricultural merchants face losing their jobs if new legislation around veterinary medicines is brought in, according to Carol Nolan, Independent TD for Laois-Offaly.
Nolan called on the Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week to instruct the Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to adopt legislation allowing a derogation.
The exemption allows for the maintenance of non-prescription status for a certain number of veterinary medicines.
“That exemption is now under threat following EU plans to introduce new regulations in January 2022. This regulation, if implemented, will mean that only vets will be allowed to prescribe these products and this will have a detrimental impact as at least 3,000 jobs in the agricultural merchant sector will be lost.
“This will be another blow to rural counties like Laois and Offaly. There is absolutely no reason this should be allowed to happen.
“The EU justification for the new rules is that only vets have enough knowledge and skill to prescribe certain antimicrobial drugs but this is patent nonsense. Thousands of highly trained and skilled agricultural merchants have been dispensing these drugs since 2006 and there is no solid evidence to suggest why this needs to change.”
She also warned it would also bring up issues around traceability as farmers would be able to buy these products in the North of Ireland, given that it will operate a different system to us.
The Taoiseach said there is still work to be done on the directive, but said he would talk to the Agriculture Minister.
“My understanding is that the chairman of the Agriculture Committee intends to facilitate a discussion at the committee on this issue where inputs can be made.”
He also said that “nobody wants to create any situation overnight whereby people are rendered unemployed as a result of the application of this directive”.
The Taoiseach added that he understood a stakeholders’ forum has been established in regard to this issue and efforts “will be made to come up with a compromise and resolution of this issue”.
The forum, he said, has met twice and there will be further discussion facilitated at the committee well in advance of the deadline in order to get a reasonable resolution of this issue for all concerned.