The Beef Plan Movement (BPM) has said that it is deeply concerned by recent discussions regarding a reduction in Ireland’s carbon emissions and an associated potential cut in livestock numbers.

The organisation’s vice chairman, John Moloney told Agriland:

“The debate around agriculture has focused on reducing the national livestock herd.

“It seems Irish farmers could be penalised for operating one of the most efficient and environmentally-friendly food production systems in the world.

“Unlike countries such as the US and Brazil, where feedlots and factory farms are prominent, Ireland has supported a grass-based family farm model,” he added.

“Most of our beef farms have a low stocking rate and a high participation rate in environmental schemes such as GLAS [Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme] and AEOS [Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) to gain entry.

“As a result, there is little scope for beef farms to cut emissions as they are already ultra efficient,” he continued.

Investment in animal welfare

BPM said that many farms have also invested heavily in slurry storage facilities and sheds, to ensure a high standard of animal welfare is maintained over the winter months.

BPM added that any measures which will affect beef output must be met with a commitment from both the Irish government and the European Union (EU) to ensure farmers receive a cost of production plus a margin.

According to Moloney, there is now a requirement to set a minimum price for beef which reflects increased costs.

“Presently, we believe the absolute minimum figure for this to be €5/kg, which should also be upwards only index-linked. Farmers cannot be expected to continue producing safe and environmentally sustainable food on an ever-decreasing margin.”

Beef Plan Movement on beef prices

Justifying, the €5/kg minimum threshold, Moloney continued:

“Fertiliser and diesel have risen in price by 100% and 50% respectively. Other inputs have risen exponentially also.

“Up to now farmers have absorbed these cost increases. The price of €5/kg is an absolute minimum pricing, so in times of a shortfall price, can increase above this. It is a safety net for producers.

“It should be funded by processors, retailers and consumers combined so costs are not all passed back to the primary producer.

“Teagasc estimates the cost of producing a kg of beef at €5.40, so we believe €5 is an achievable target without having a negative impact on demand.”

BPM said it is also disappointed with what it regards as the complete lack of innovation displayed by government agencies, where climate change is concerned.

“They seem to have invested a huge amount of time and money calculating the emissions from our farms,” Moloney said.

“We have numbers for bovine methane emissions, nitrates emissions and so on. Yet we cannot seem to nail down a figure for sequestration of carbon in grassland and hedgerows.

“With over 12 millon acres of grass and 500,000km of hedgerows one would think this would be a priority,” he concluded.