DEAR SIR: I was disappointed and a little shocked when I read Eddie Punch’s (general secretary, ICSA) correspondence in last week’s Irish Farmers Journal.
In it, Mr Punch outlined the ICSA’s opposition to any cull scheme targeting suckler cows. For clarity, I have been closely associated with the ICSA for much of my adult life and have held senior positions including that of Leinster vice president.
In his correspondence, Mr Punch states, in the context of a possible voluntary cull, “A possible reduction in suckler cow numbers was rebuffed by all, including meat processors”.
It’s a genuine mystery to me who the general secretary consulted with, before reaching this policy decision.
The possibility of a voluntary cull scheme has been doing the rounds for quite a while now and all agree that the devil may well be in the detail.
However, insofar as I am aware, the only suckler farmers that are ideologically opposed, are pedigree breeders. The possible agenda there is pretty obvious.
Elsewhere in his correspondence, Mr Punch stated, “With meal at €450+/t, earlier finishing is a big challenge”. In this he is totally correct.
As I have stated previously, the suckler farmers who are most likely to avail of a cull scheme are those in Leinster and east Munster who are sitting on arable soils.
They have the soils, but perhaps not the equipment to grow cereals. A goodbye payment from suckling would help finance that equipment.
In this context, the ICSA and also the IFA need to explain how suckler farmers transitioning to crops would take ham off the plates of other farmers.
Suckling and dairy farming have much in common, such as the skillset required and commitment to working unsociable hours. However, the difference in profitability now stands at 500% per acre and widening. Clearly suckling as a means of making a living is in bother.
For farm organisations to ignore these facts constitutes a moral failure. I contend that it is the moral duty of all farm organisations to facilitate a dignified exit from suckling for those who wish to go.
To my old comrade Eddie and his counterparts in Bluebell, I suggest, consult, consult and then consult some more.