Joe Healy, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), has said that a “farmer rebellion” has started after its members descended on Cork for a major protest today.
IFA members gathered at Cork City Hall today, Wednesday, May 1, where a meeting of cabinet is currently taking place; the purpose of the gathering was to highlight the financial hit the beef sector has taken as a result of Brexit.
The IFA is demanding an aid package for beef farmers to the tune of €101 million to offset this damage.
We are going to fight – and fight like hell – to get an aid package for beef farmers. We are here today because beef farmers are threatened with extinction.
Addressing the crowd, Healy highlighted some of the price cuts beef farmers have faced, stemming from uncertainty around Brexit.
“Cattle finishers have been savaged financially by Brexit beef price cuts. Beef finishers are facing financial ruin. Because of Brexit uncertainty and exchange rate losses, beef prices are down 30c/kg from this time last year. That’s over €100/head of a price loss,” he said.
Bull finishers, he added, are in particular difficulty.
Finishers with young bulls have been fleeced. They took price cuts of 40 to 50c/kg or over €300/head. That’s a financial wipe-out.
Healy argued that: “While others talk about what might happen after Brexit, beef farmers are living the nightmare.”
According to the IFA president, farmers are “angry and fed up to the back teeth of empty promises from politicians”.
“They keep promising ‘we will look after you on Brexit’. We have the ‘big three promisers’: Leo Varadkar; Phil Hogan; and Simon Coveney. They have all promised big. Well, it’s time to deliver big,” argued Healy.
Apart from Brexit, he highlighted some of the other challenges that beef farmers had to contend with.
Healy took aim at the factories, saying they “lumped all of the Brexit losses back on top of the farmer”.
“Ask any farmer here today who was trying to sell young bulls since last Christmas. Not alone were they savaged on price – some factories turned their backs on them and walked away. It was a disgrace,” he said.
The importance of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was also underlined by Healy.
There is a proposal on the table in Brussels from the EU Commission to cut direct payments to Irish farmers by €97 million per year. Taoiseach, Minister Creed and Commissioner Hogan; tear it up. It’s a non-runner. No government or commissioner could ever face Irish farmers with a proposal to cut their incomes by €97 million per year.
Healy had strong words for Minister Creed in his speech, saying that the latter has “developed a habit of coming with ‘too little, too late’”.
“Whenever there is a problem, he seems to hide in the dressing room until the match is nearly over. Minister, you need to come out of the dressing room fully togged out and fight for Irish farmers,” he added.
He also called on Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to insist that the Government do more on this issue.
Healy concluded his remarks today by addressing the divide between Dublin and the rest of the country.
“Taoiseach, Dublin is overheating. You can’t drive in it and you can’t find a place to live in it. We hear the mantra of sustainability. Well Dublin is not sustainable. It’s time to focus on the rest of Ireland,” he argued.
“Our beef farmers are the heart and soul of the rural economy. They are the engine that keeps rural Ireland alive…the people who kept this country going after the economic crash and who continue to be the cornerstone of our economy,” said the IFA president.