It would be wrong to say the Beef Summit produced any concrete solutions to the crisis farmers are experiencing, but that was never its purpose.

Identifying the core of the problem wasn’t the focus either – a 10-year-old growing up on a beef farm could tell you the problem is that breeding and fattening cattle are not paying propositions.

The day was about putting all sides into a room, in the full glare of the national media.

The farmers were the ones filling the massive function room in the Shearwater Hotel, and spilling over into an adjoining room where events were being relayed via a big screen.

The various experts ranged from Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland to the CEOs of ICBF, Bord Bia and Teagasc.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and his secretary general Brendan Gleeson also spoke.

Every other link in the chain – retailer, processor, feed and input suppliers – need to make a profit and will always take a margin

Some of the comments were revealing. For instance, Cormac Healy did accept that farmers need to make a margin, but that processors “are not in control of margins”. Farmers’ incomes are a combination of margin and direct payments, he added.

This gets to the heart of the mindset. Every other link in the chain – retailer, processor, feed and input suppliers – need to make a profit and will always take a margin. Farmers, however, can take the hit when markets are tough, and look to Brussels for help.

Producers are essentially the melodeon in the trad group, ready to be squeezed whenever necessary.

To many of the farmers present, the implication was that a wage for their efforts was an optional extra, the cherry on top in a good year. But beef production is how these farmers put bread on the table.

Everyone seemed to be saying that it wasn’t their job to provide an income for farmers, but the floor was letting them know that they all were effectively earning their income from farmers.

If, as meat factory spokesman Cormac Healy said, €5 is “unsurmountable” in the current market, then farm supports will have to fill the gap.

The minister’s assertion that €100m is both required and being sought is helpful, but he fell short of promising delivery.

Ultimately, the core problems remain, but it was a good step forward.

The big question is, where to now?

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