The tension that filled the Beef Summit in Ballinasloe last Thursday reflects the plight experienced by beef farmers following six months of flat prices.
It is important that farmers make their voices heard and that the entire supply chain and support services are aware of the realities in the sector.
However, in exploring how the industry can be improved, it is essential that everyone works from a factual base and where there is uncertainty on facts, clarity and certainty must be provided.
What is essential is that Ireland develops the most efficient suckler beef herd possible based on science
The ICBF and its board attracted its share of criticism.
Ultimately, a board will be shaped by its shareholders and it should not distract with the work of the organisation and delivery for farmers.
What is essential is that Ireland develops the most efficient suckler beef herd possible based on science.
It is fair that the ICBF is challenged on delivery in relation to performance but farmers will not be served well by focusing on the housekeeping or operational matters at the expense of overall performance.
Use of data was also a controversial issue that was hotly debated.
We are in an age where use of data is under scrutiny like never before, not just in Ireland but globally.
GDPR legislation is now operational for over a year and ICBF will be subject to it in the same way anyone handling data is.
Frustrations felt by farmers in respect of these issues are very real and voiced accordingly
It is the same with quality assurance (QA). There was a conflict of opinion around the status of an animal passing through the mart, with the view from the floor that it lost its QA status but Bord Bia was adamant that if the QA chain isn’t broken along the way, then QA status is retained even if it goes through a mart.
Frustrations felt by farmers in respect of these issues are very real and voiced accordingly.
However, to progress a discussion about the future direction of travel for our beef industry we need to start from a basis of factual understanding. This is a communication exercise and communication is a two-way process.
ICBF and Bord Bia have to communicate clearly and deliver the information on the issues that were surrounded by uncertainty and farmers have to make it their business to be fully informed.