The Government paved the way for a cull on badgers yesterday when it announced moves to tackle the spread of TB in cattle.
Other measures to combat the disease, which is increasing at a rate of 18 per cent a year and prevalent in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and parts of Worcestershire, pre-movement testing for cattle and a new compensation scheme for those affected.
Farmers have blamed badgers for spreading bovine TB, a claim denied by many wildlife groups.
New measures announced by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs include public consultation on culling badgers in disease-hit areas; premovement testing to reduce the spread of bovine TB through the movement of cattle and a compensation scheme to bring into line payments made to farmers for bovine TB and three other cattle diseases.
This follows the findings of a number of independent reports showing serious over-payments under the current bovine TB compensation system.
Animal Health and Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said "Bovine TB has reached crisis levels in some parts of the country. Experience from around the world shows that strict cattle controls are essential if TB is to be contained and eradicated."
The NFU welcomed the strategy but warned that premovement testing and changes to compensation would place huge financial pressures on farmers.
David Morgan, NFU West Midlands livestock board chairman, said: "At last the Government has acknowledged the need for action to tackle the reservoir of tuberculosis from the badger population in infected areas."
With the introduction of pre-movement testing of livestock from infected areas, farmers will be expected to carry the cost of veterinary fees, while Defra will cover the costs of the materials.