There is no plan at Government level to reduce the suckler herd, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has insisted.
The minister was addressing the INHFA’s annual general meeting in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, where an enforced cut in the suckler cow herd was ruled out by the organisation’s incoming president Vincent Roddy.
“There are no plans by the Government or myself to reduce the suckler herd. I want to support it, and support the incomes of suckler farmers,” Minister McConalogue told the meeting last Friday.
He said the limit on cow numbers per herd for the programme related to the overall cost of the scheme and the delivery of carbon reductions
He dismissed suggestions that the conditions of the proposed Suckler Carbon Efficiency Scheme in the next CAP represented a limit on beef cow numbers.
He said the limit on cow numbers per herd for the programme related to the overall cost of the scheme and the delivery of carbon reductions, rather than being a cap on the suckler herd.
The meeting heard calls from Roddy, who hails from Carracastle in Co Mayo, for a €250m increase in Government co-funding for CAP Pillar II schemes. He also supported the current CAP proposals around front-loading and convergence.
“These [Pillar II] supports must come in the form of welfare-type schemes and not a carbon efficiency programme as currently outlined for the suckler sector,” Roddy said.
Minister McConalogue did not give a firm commitment on co-funding, but said engagement was continuing with the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and that he was “fighting to ensure” the maximum allocation for farming.
On a positive note for hill farmers, Minister McConalogue gave a firm commitment to “a good strong environmental scheme” in the next CAP.
There was also good news from the conference for organic farmers
But Roddy cautioned that access to agri-environmental supports was “vital for all farmers” and did not exclude those with “private hill lands and those operating high nature value farming systems as was the case in GLAS”.
There was also good news from the conference for organic farmers. Minister McConalogue confirmed that “significant additional funding” would be made available to the organic sector to expand farmer participation.
The minister conceded that plans to grow farmer involvement in organics from 2% to 7% of overall numbers represented “quite an ambition”.
However, he said “significant resources” would be allocated to developing markets and that Bord Bia had been tasked with spearheading this drive.
Along with Roddy, the new INHFA leadership team includes Micheál McDonnell and Pheilim Molloy as vice-presidents. The pair are from Mayo and Donegal respectively.
Sharon Cosgrove from Bangor-Erris remains as secretary, while Sligo farmer Hugh Gallagher takes over as treasurer.