A new beef forum announced by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue on Monday must be equipped with powers to have a meaningful impact on the income of livestock farmers, according to the IFA.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said farmers haven’t seen any return in increasing beef price from the initiatives of the Beef Market Taskforce, which was wound up on Monday.

Cullinan made the comments in light of the Minister’s commitment to establish a new strategic beef forum, following the publication of the final Beef Taskforce report by the group’s chair, Michael Dowling.

Some progress

The IFA president described "some progress" that the taskforce had made, including the advancement of the PGI status for Irish beef and establishing a suckler beef brand with a €6m budget to promote beef from the suckler herd.

However, Cullinan said: "These have yet to be finalised. Farmers haven’t seen any return in beef price from these initiatives."

He highlighted that Minister McConalogue also gave a commitment to Beef Taskforce members to "implement primary legislation to give powers to a food regulator to establish margins along the food supply chain."

He called on the Minister "to act on this commitment immediately."

Input costs

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said input costs are eroding the beef price increases over the past 12 months and winter finishers are facing into another season of uncertainty.

"Suckler and beef farming depends on direct payments for 160% of farm family income. The current policy and budgets provided are failing to support these farmers.

"The CAP policy has eroded the income of our more productive beef farmers, with further challenges in meeting climate target ambitions on the horizon."

Golden warned that the new beef forum must "deliver on maximising returns to beef farmers from the market place and ensuring the sector is supported."

He noted that the IFA looks forward to engaging in the new stakeholder group, but will be doing so on the basis that this group will be in a position to make a difference for suckler and beef farmers’ incomes.

Cullinan said: "Irish beef is ideally placed with its environmental and welfare credentials to meet the higher societal demands for food production standards. This must be reflected in prices to farmers."