Representatives of Beef Plan Movement (BPM) met with agriculture minister, Charlie McConalogue, earlier this week to discuss future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) priorities for the livestock sector.

“The minister was very much in listening mode,” confirmed BPM chairman, Eamon Corley.

“Discussion centred on the impact of the current proposals on beef producer groups and the need for a root and branch review of the current star rating system.

“We also made it very clear that Beef Plan will not accept the proposed restriction on suckler cow numbers.

“It is totally discriminatory that sucker herd owners should be singled out in this way, relative to tillage, dairy, sheep and farmers in other sectors,” he added.

Suckler audits in CAP

Members of the Beef Plan Movement deputation also highlighted their concerns regarding the proposed introduction of Bord Bia audits as a compulsory element of the new suckler scheme.

It was pointed out to the minister b the delegation that such a measure was completely unacceptable and would have to be revisited.

Corley explained: “Being a member of Bord Bia Quality Assurance should not be a compulsory element to the new suckler scheme.

“Many small-scale farmers throughout the country sell weanlings and a few suckler cows.

“Currently there is no quality assurance bonus available for both weanlings and suckler cows, so why should these farmers who don’t finish cattle, go through the hassle of a Bord Bia inspection if there is no financial reward for it?”

According to BPM, these farmers have participated in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

Corley continued: “But making Bord Bia a compulsory element of the new suckler scheme will drive them away in their droves.

“Quite simply, an older generation of farmers, predominately in the west of Ireland, with a fear of inspectors and audits are not going to bother with it.”

Reducing paperwok

The Beef Plan Movement said that it pointed out to the minister that one of the aims of the new schemes is to try and cut out bureaucracy.

“This move clearly does the opposite and adds another layer which is completely unnecessary,” said Corley.

“It also serves to divert CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] money away from the small suckler farmers in the west of Ireland who promote biodiversity and keep rural communities alive, to Bord Bia.”

During the meeting, BPM said that the minister confirmed his intention to further consult with the farming industry on CAP over the next two months.

“This will entail him visiting two marts in each county,” said Corley.

“It’s an approach that should give the minister an opportunity to get real feedback from farmers on the ground. Beef Plan [Movement] can trace its origins to the support it originally received from livestock farmers, who use the marts on a regular basis.”

According to Corley, Beef Plan Movement has 1,600 fully paid up members with each of the 26 counties represented.