Creed: Producer organisations could ‘deliver more clout’ for beef farmers

Producer organisations could be an option to deliver more clout for beef farmers when engaging with the beef processing industry, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has said.

Speaking to a large crowd of farmers in Co. Laois last night (Monday, October 1), the minister said that funding had been put aside for beef producer groups, “which to a disappointing extent has remained untested as to its potential”.

Minister Creed added why that opportunity hasn’t been exploited when funding has been committed under the Rural Development Programme, will be one of the issues on the agenda at tomorrow’s Beef Forum, which farm organisations will not be participating in.

“If you organise producers collectively, they have a better opportunity – I would contend – and producer organisations are part of the landscape in other beef-producing countries, particularly in France.

They have a better opportunity to organise themselves and to engage through numbers.

The minister noted that this is being done in the dairy sector, with forward planning, forward selling and the payment of a fixed price.

He questioned if there is some potential in the context of producer organisations to negotiate with processors on delivering a certain spec of so many cattle, on a certain day, to be agreed in advance.

“That’s the kind of certainty I think the industry has cried out for,” he contended.

The minister said that, despite having committed public funds through the Rural Development Programme for it, such groups are not up and running effectively.

It’s not the ‘panacea’ for everything; but it’s certainly one of these things that we can invoke to try and deliver more clout in engagement with the processing sector.

The minister was guest speaker at Laois Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) county executive meeting, invited by Laois county chairman Francie Gorman.

Minister Creed was asked 56 questions from the floor on a range of issues by the gathered farmers, on topics including: CAP reform; Brexit; the ANC scheme; Bord Bia inspections; fodder shortages; unfair trading practices; and Budget 2019.

Beef prices and suckler supports were a dominant theme also, with Creed pouring cold water on calls for a suckler payment.

It was noted that it was the first time a minister for agriculture has attended a Laois IFA county executive.

‘Addressing that imbalance’

Speaking to AgriLand after the meeting, Minister Creed gave further details on such producer groups.

“Producer organisations are already an integral part of the horticultural side, particularly mushrooms; they deliver for primary producers.

“In the context of the beef industry they’re a part of the landscape in other countries; and I’m not in any way setting them up as the ‘panacea’ – far from it – but one of the regular complaints is that farmers don’t have any power in the context of their engagement with the processors.

So I would have thought that this initiative, which was launched by the department and approved by the department some time ago, would at least go some way to addressing that imbalance.

“It’s on the agenda for Wednesday; I hope farming organisations won’t lose the opportunity to engage on it.”