‘There is no way one can look for €200/suckler cow under the current system’

There is no way one can look for a €200 payment for each suckler cow under the current system, according to Fine Gael TD Pat Deering.

The deputy made the comments last night in the Dail as Fianna Fail brought forward a motion calling for the Government to support the suckler sector and introduce such a payment.

Also Read: Calls for a €200/suckler cow payment tabled in Dail motion

Following a discussion on the matter, which lasted for almost two hours, the motion was accepted.

The issue of the underspend by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was raised on a number of occasions during the exchange.

During his address to the floor, Deputy Deering said: “We have heard, in the past few minutes in particular, about the underspend under different schemes.

“I challenge Fianna Fail to outline where the underspend is occurring. GLAS and TAMS payments are built into the process. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not going to sort out this problem.

Pitting farmers one against the other is not going to sort it out. There is no way one can look for €200 under the current system.

‘Be brave minister’

However, Minister Creed has been called upon by Fianna Fail TD Eamon O Cuiv to “be brave” and introduce a support payment of €200/suckler cow.

He said: “The last Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was very bad for suckler farmers, particularly for those west of the Shannon. Many of them used to export or sell the young cattle up the country before they got the 10-month punch.

“We need to support all farmers; we need all land farmed. That is the point that the minister’s predecessor failed to grasp and I am not sure anything has changed.

I ask the minister to give consideration to this now. It could be done quite simply. There is a lot of money unspent under the CAP.

“At the end of the day, we need our farming industry. It is an indigenous industry with a very high export ratio to inputs. I urge the minister to be brave and do this.”

Suckler sector support

Introducing the motion to the floor, Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue was hopeful that the Government would choose to improve the level of support being given to Ireland’s suckler cow beef sector after the debate.

“Up to now, unfortunately, we have seen unwillingness from the Government to actually recognise the need to provide that support.

“This is a crucial sector. It underpins Ireland’s €2.5 billion beef exports. More than 70,000 farm families are involved in the suckler cow sector and depend on it for their income.

“For every €1 invested in the suckler cow beef sector there is a €4 return to the local economy in which the farm families play such a crucial role,” Deputy McConalogue claimed.

The Fianna Fail TD claimed that Minister Creed needs to get “fresh money as part of the next CAP in light of Brexit and Mercosur” to fund the €200/suckler cow payment.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail’s Jackie Cahill underlined the importance for the Basic Payment Scheme budget to be ring fenced.

We are looking for extra funding for suckler cows and low-income farmers. There can be no soft negotiations this time and no concessions on our single farm payment.

“That €400 billion budget has to be maintained. This extra funding must be found in the next round of CAP negotiations,” he added.

Potential funding

In his response, Minister Creed referred to possible sources of funding for a €200/suckler cow payment.

He said: “A fully Exchequer-funded support scheme would require approval by the European Commission under state-aid regulations and would need to comply with our obligations under the WTO rules.

“Second, while there have been calls for the use of savings within the existing rural development programme to be used for additional supports, I wish to restate and make absolutely clear that there are no surplus funds available within the rural development programme above and beyond the funding already allocated, which has been committed to existing schemes within the rural development programme.

Finally, any allocation of funding under Pillar One of the CAP would, in principle, have required a linear reduction of an estimated 18% to all existing farmers’ BPS payments for redistribution.

“In fact, the deadline for any such change to the Pillar One scheme in the current round has already passed.”

The minister added that the Government is committed to suckler farming and will continue to ensure “appropriate supports” are targeted towards suckler farmers into the future.

Continuing, Minister Creed said: “A coupled payment will cut right across every initiative we have taken to improve the genetic merit of the herd and to liberate farmers from the compulsion to have the numbers to be able to guarantee drawdown of the payment.

“We liberate them from that and let them make more commercially-focused decisions. However, if we introduce a coupled payment, it will undermine all the progress we have made to improve the genetic merit of the herd.

“This would be a huge mistake at a time when one of the biggest challenges we on the agriculture side face is to reduce our emissions.”