Low-income farm sectors such as those of beef, suckler and sheep are being “crucified” by the impacts of “spiralling” farm input costs and the CAP Strategic Plan, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA).

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher insisted that further supports “must be directed” towards these sectors, which are “earning 10 to 15 times less than their counterparts involved in dairying”.

He is said to have made the ask in a meeting with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and senior Department of Agriculture officials on Thursday afternoon.

Kelleher was accompanied by senior ICSA officials, including beef chair Edmund Graham, suckler chair Jimmy Cosgrave, sheep chair Sean McNamara, rural development chair Tim Farrell and general secretary Eddie Punch for the in-person meeting at Agriculture House.

‘Not delivering’

Following the meeting, the ICSA president said the CAP Strategic Plan is not delivering for active cattle and sheep farmers and that input costs are continuing to “inflict further devastating blows”.

“It is a perfect storm and the Minister must act now to deliver more supports from exchequer funds and target them directly at the vulnerable beef, suckler and sheep sectors,” he said.

Targeted supports are now necessary to alleviate the shortcomings of the CAP plan

Kelleher claimed that “the Minister was wrong” in failing to allocate a greater proportion of CAP funds to these low-income farm sectors.

“There was no justification then, and there is no justification now, for ignoring the fact that these sectors are earning 10 to 15 times less than their counterparts involved in dairying.

"Targeted supports are now necessary to alleviate the shortcomings of the CAP plan for cattle and sheep sectors and to mitigate the crippling burden of inflation on these sectors,” he said.

Fertiliser voucher

While acknowledging that the €1,000 silage package announced by Minister McConalogue for cattle and sheep farmers this week is “welcome”, the Cork farmer also reiterated the association’s call for a €2,000 fertiliser voucher as the current silage scheme “simply does not go far enough”.

He said that at the meeting on Thursday: “[The] ICSA again recommended that a voucher be made available to farmers who can show their farming enterprises required the purchase of fertiliser in 2021.

"Vouchers should be payable at a rate of 50% of the total fertiliser bill for 2021, to a maximum of €2,000.”

ICSA suckler chair Jimmy Cosgrave also outlined the farm organisation’s proposal for an exchequer-funded suckler animal welfare scheme that could deliver €80 to €100 per cow, which, when added to CAP suckler payments, could deliver a €250/head total suckler payment.

Cosgrave says a key element of such a scheme would be to myostatin test all cows and heifers in the suckler herd to establish if an animal is a double-muscle gene carrier with a view to appropriately matching cows to bulls to minimise calving difficulties.

He claimed the scheme would also tackle lameness issues.

The ICSA said it also called on the Government to investigate why the price of diesel has remained so high despite price of a barrel of oil dropping by some 20% in recent weeks.

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