IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said members are disappointed at the lack of ambition to provide meaningful support to the sector and the underhanded attempts to limit the national suckler herd through the proposed suckler cow scheme.
The committee consists of democratically elected representatives of suckler and beef farmers from every county.
Setting out the conclusions of the committee, Golden said any attempt to limit or cap the national suckler herd has been rejected out of hand and will not be accepted by IFA.
He said Irish suckler farmers operate one of the most environmentally sustainable beef farming systems globally and are a critical component of beef production within the higher environmental standards imposed on farming and food production by the EU in the new CAP.
The IFA livestock chair said suckler farmers must be directly supported in the strategic plans for what they do. These must include a payment of €300/cow with no underhand attempts within the scheme to limit or cap the national herd.
The livestock committee also strongly rejected the compulsion to be part of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance (QA) scheme as a condition of eligibility to receive payments. QA is recognised as a market requirement and, as such, farmers who participate must be rewarded from the marketplace.
“It’s not acceptable or appropriate to impose this requirement as a condition of the suckler scheme. Farmers already measure carbon in existing schemes without the requirement to be part of the Bord Bia QA scheme,” he said.
The IFA chair was also critical of the Department’s failure to include a cattle-rearing and finishing scheme in the strategic plans.
The IFA has made proposals to the Department of Agriculture to extend the pilot dairy-calf-to-beef scheme to include meaningful payments to farmers who rear and finish weanlings and stores from suckler farms.
These farmers must be provided with a scheme that returns at least €100 an animal.
Golden said productive suckler and beef farmers are most dependent on strong direct supports, which account for up to 160% of family farm income on these farms. They are also the farmers who are affected most by the convergence and eco-scheme proposals within Pillar I.
“Eco schemes must be designed to ensure every farmer, at a minimum, is provided with the opportunity to claim back all the monies taken from their entitlement value,” he said.
Pillar II has ample opportunity to offset this impact and reward Irish suckler and beef farmers directly for the food we produce to the standards imposed on us by the EU.
The key question is if there is a willingness from our Minister for Agriculture to formulate strategic plans and provide the co-financing allowed in Pillar II to achieve these objectives.