What can you do for those who are unhappy with the current scenario yet are resistant to change at the same time?
That’s the thought I was left with following a question that was put to me over Christmas during a catch up with friends. Every now and then I get asked a question about the beef sector. Maybe it’s because I’m a suckler farmer in a predominantly dairy area so if I can, I try to answer as best as possible.
“C’mere, you’re a suckler farmer.”
“Could you explain something to me?”
“Ask away and I’ll see what I can do.”
Now I can’t remember the question word for word, but it was regarding the suckler reduction scheme and its subsequent scrapping. The gist of the question was something like this.
“Suckler farmers are giving out for years that there’s no money in suckling and then when there was a proposal to have a scheme to exit or reduce their herds and they would be paid to do so, they gave out and objected to that too.
"And then you have those who were waiting on the scheme to get paid to get out and they’re giving out because the scheme to get out is gone. Do they just like giving out?”
It felt more like an entry to a tongue twister competition than a question. With my brain scrambled, I figured it was better to change topic than try and answer a question that wouldn’t be out of place in a philosophy course.
I still don’t have the answer to that farmer’s question, but I can understand the resistance to a reduction scheme.
There are statistics to show emissions from sucklers have reduced in recent years, and numbers have been dropping by roughly 20,000 head per year since 2012.
Given the range of systems and scale, trying to get consensus among beef farmers is a bigger challenge compared to trying to do the same in dairy.
Then factor in all the different farmer representative organisations with a foot in the beef camp. That’s a competitive space. Vying for members, there’s a danger they could fall into the trap of being all things to everyone – and that’s a difficult place to be when you need to find common cause.
Such a cause could potentially have arrived in the form of the proposed Coillte/Gresham House deal.
I’m uncomfortable with it to say the least. Similar types of investments in housing look to have made it much more difficult for a generation to own their own home. It’s a deal that’s leaving a sour taste on the ground and could hang in the memory for a while even if it never actually comes to fruition.
It would put you thinking though. If an investment company sees an opportunity in buying land in order to draw Government premiums for 15 years, are farmers missing a trick?
Farmers already own the land and would be eligible for 20 years of premiums. Plus, in the case of family farms, the land and timber remain their asset after the grant aided period has elapsed.
Naturally, there’s pros and cons, but it may suit those who have no successor who is interested in farming as well as maintaining a family connection to the land. It would probably need some creative thinking to consider a co-op type approach, but the challenge of trying to reach consensus raises its head again.