‘Beef plan’ leveraged as ‘last chance’ for struggling sector

A newly-proposed roadmap for the beef sector “put together by farmers for farmers” is making its voice heard on the Irish agricultural scene, according to those behind the recently-formed Beef Plan Movement.

The authors of the ‘Beef Plan 2018-2025’ – understood to be an entity of farmers that are largely, but not exclusively, members of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) – claim their blueprint could well be “the last chance for the suckler and beef farmers of this country”.

With more than 1,200 members now signed up to the group, the entity is now calling itself the “Beef Plan Movement”.

Organisers say farmers are “waking up to the fact that the position they now find themselves in has never been weaker”.

In recent days, members of the new entity outlined its vision for the sector to MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness.

The group has also held “constructive talks” with a number of breed societies in recent days; plus, it sat down with some senior representatives of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Also Read: Breed societies row in behind new Beef Plan Group

Beef farmer Eamon Corley – who is the spokesman for the group and who recently featured on episode 5 of FarmLand – described suckler farming as the “heartbeat” of rural Ireland – particularly the west of Ireland.

He highlights how the sector is keeping schools, shops, garda stations, post offices, marts and many more businesses open.

“The sector produces a profitable and much-desired product that has a great future for the farmers in rural Ireland who are highly-trained, irreplaceable tradesmen in its production.

This enterprise has been hijacked by greedy corporations who, in time, will do the same with dairy-bred beef.

Over the last few months, the core members of the movement – who have been involved in a producer and purchaser group together for the last three years – decided to take matters into their own hands by producing an 86-point draft plan for beef.

Also Read: Farmers confront meat industry with 86-point draft beef plan

Corley says that this rolling document will be “added to and strengthened” and will act as a template for the sector.

It is understood that the document has also been brought to the attention of the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, is also aware of the blueprint.

The movement has expressed its “disappointment” at the perceived abandonment by all other stakeholders in the Irish beef sector of the suckler and beef farmer.

Those behind the group say this has led to farming becoming “a loss-making exercise” – with some beef farmers now finding themselves in a “lonely, desperate place”.

The plan’s objectives centre around the following:
  • Regaining control of an animal from birth to slaughter and beyond;
  • Returning a cost of production price plus a margin as a minimum; and
  • Regaining respect within the beef industry.

Describing the plan as a movement to unite Irish beef farmers, the group’s leaders are aiming to create from it a “pivot point” from where farmers can start to take back control.

The movement will be an opportunity for all the stakeholders including: Teagasc; Bord Bia; the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF); the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the European Union; factories; retailers; and consumers to “work with farmers as equal partners”, according to the entity.

40,000 farmers needed

The group says it needs at least 40,000 beef farmers to row in behind its proposals; and the movement has now begun a nationwide campaign to achieve this target.

New members are being asked to contribute €10 towards the development of the entity.

Farmers are saying that they want to buy into this movement and we feel that a subscription of €10 would enable farmers to do this.

“We now have contact people for each county and we encourage all farmers involved in the production of beef to get behind this.

“With 75,000 suckler farmers and more beef finishers, this is by far the biggest farming sector in this country. We see this movement as an easy sell – it will be like selling life jackets on a sinking ship,” said Corley, who is also the current livestock chair of Meath IFA.

For farmers interested in becoming part of this movement, the movement has provided contact details of reference for each county, which can be seen below.