‘An open letter to farmer protesters’ from Minister Michael Creed

By Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed

Over the past number of weeks you have made your stand. Your heartfelt views have dominated the headlines on the airwaves and newspapers for the summer of 2019.

Having met with many of you – from all corners of the country – I clearly understand your anger, frustration and anxiety for the future. Your voices have been heard – loud and clear.

Over the weekend huge efforts were made to reach an agreement, to signal to you that not only have your voices been heard but that things are going to change.

This is why the leaders of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); Macra na Feirme; the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA); the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA); and the Beef Plan Movement backed the agreement.

This is why the representatives of the Independent Farmers of Ireland said that they agreed to recommend the deal to those of you at the factory gate who sent them.

All of these people who represent the vast majority of farmers in Ireland believed that this was a decent start on a way forward.

‘Everyone has to give something’

The agreement is a compromise. Nobody got everything they wanted. Everyone had to give something. It was hard fought on all sides for over 36 hours of tough negotiation.

It is detailed and I would ask you to find some time to go through it line by line to take in its full impact.

Many of you are simply looking for a price increase – please understand that this is something that we could not legally discuss.

But now farmers have an opportunity to stand together and agree prices through the establishment of producer organisations.

Ireland’s first recognised producer organisation was approved last week and this can strengthen your hand going forward.

Reaching agreement

We agreed a number of new and increased bonuses; importantly there is now a bonus for animals finished at over 30 months-of-age.

I know this is a major matter of principle for many of you. I also know there were calls to end the bonus structure in totality and that some farmers argue that it is anti-competitive.

The meat industry argues that they are critical to maintaining important markets.

We all agreed to have the matter examined independently so that we can review it all with the facts on the table thereafter.

All of the farmers I have met involved in the protests spoke of their mistrust of processors.

The agreement is full of measures which will allow farmers to know where they stand in the supply chain.

In order to make sure that all of this is delivered upon, I will appoint an independent chairman to a Beef Market Taskforce which will oversee the implementation of this agreement in its entirety.

‘Your voices have been heard’

As I said at the outset – you have made your stand. Your voices have been heard. I write this letter to respectfully ask for two things: firstly, I ask that you give the agreement a chance – own it for how you made it happen.

Secondly, I ask that you seriously consider what continuing the protests now means. The future of the sector is now in the balance. If you are of the view that you have no future in beef farming anyway – please consider those who wish to keep going.

The people who entered Agriculture House in good faith to secure a deal on your behalf were willing to take the responsibility for what was agreed.

Some have been criticised for what they did or did not achieve – responsibility is not easy. Now you have a responsibility. Those of you who are minded to continue the protest must now be fully aware of your responsibilities.

The future of the Irish beef sector is in your hands; please don’t be responsible for its destruction. The futures of your fellow farmers are in your hands – please don’t be responsible for their livelihoods.