Any payments made to farmers for reducing livestock numbers to meet climate change targets must be available to all agricultural sectors, drystock farmer representatives have insisted.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) and the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) also reacted angrily to suggestions that lower stock numbers on beef and sheep holdings may actually increase farmers’ incomes.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) last week admitted that “direct Government transfers” to farmers will be necessary where a significant reduction in livestock numbers is required to meet climate change targets.

Controversially, however, IFAC maintained that lower stock numbers would reduce costs and lead to higher net incomes on drystock farms.

The implication was that these farms would therefore be ineligible for State compensation. But this view was challenged by the ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher:

“It’s absurd to assume a cow has no value. It’s also wrong, because the Fiscal Advisory Council has only done a superficial analysis of the economics of farming systems,” Kelleher said.

“They have failed to grasp the difference between variable and fixed costs in farming systems, and have therefore assumed incorrectly that there is no economic loss to removing suckler cows from farms,” he added.

Meanwhile, INHFA president Vincent Roddy described as “quite insulting” IFAC’s contention regarding incomes on drystock farms.

He also took issue with suggestions from IFAC that any climate-related compensation payments might cease once farmers retired.

Roddy said this was obviously a major concern for young farmers, particularly given the difficulties in attracting new entrants into the industry.