The Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) has reserved its position on the Food Vision Beef and Sheep Group due to the lack of commitment from relevant ministers around funding for measures.

ICSA has called on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath to sit down with the group in order to negotiate a way forward.

Unless this happens, the ICSA has said it will not engage further with the group.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said: "The ICSA is not supportive of measures which lead to reduced output, in the absence of a coherent plan to support viable suckler, beef and sheep systems."

No reassurances

The report, he added, provides no reassurances that the government wishes to see the suckler, sheep and beef sectors prosper or even stabilise.

"This is unacceptable from a political perspective, and unwise from a strategic planning perspective.

"Instead, it represents a set of ideas put forward exclusively by the Department of Agriculture and therefore is essentially an internal document, to which stakeholders have been given an opportunity to comment but not to negotiate," Kelleher said.

It is evident that this report, and the wider Climate Action Plan, is meaningless without a financial framework, Kelleher argued.

"No sector is being asked to do as much per capita as some 100,000 livestock farmers yet all other sectors have access to funding either in terms of subsidies to consumers or grant aid to companies.

"In all other cases, the burden will be shared either by the taxpayer or by passing on costs to consumers or both," he said.

One of the key demands made by the ICSA is that the way forward must address the outcomes needed to make beef viable again, with particular focus on beef price.

Additional funding is also needed to drive on the suckler premium strategy.

This must entail leveraging the DNA data already available as a plan to authenticate Irish suckler grass-fed beef and drive a higher return from the marketplace, he said.


"In effect, we want to see three support packages for sucklers that will equate to at least €300/cow, and which will be in place for the long-term so that farmers who remain in suckler production are supported with more funds per cow than those who exit either dairy or sucklers," he said.

The ICSA is also seeking a review of the €12/ewe payment in the new sheep welfare scheme.

"Sheep farming is the vital enterprise on a lot of marginal land and hill areas and must be supported more."