Department refuses to release copy of €100 million EU beef fund submission

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has refused to release a copy of its submission to the European Commission seeking a multi-million euro support fund for Irish beef farmers.

Earlier this month, AgriLand revealed that a special fund of €100 million for the sector had been agreed upon by the commission after the department submitted “a detailed case” pushing for emergency funding to be made available.

Following considerable pressure from the country’s farm lobby organisations, the department is believed to have penned a substantial document focusing on the reasons why beef farmers in Ireland are in need of such aids.

However, when asked for a copy of the initial submission sent by the department to the commission, a spokesperson for the department stated:

The requested information is the subject of an ongoing deliberative process and it is therefore not possible to release it.

It is understood that chief reasons for seeking the fund include: the fact that a no-deal Brexit is still on the table; current beef price difficulties due to increased kill from the dairy herd; and the overhang of last summer’s drought across the continent.

The commission has agreed to a fund of €50 million, while the Irish Government – namely the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Finance – will match this figure, bringing the total amount to €100 million.

Although the fund is expected to be released to farmers in the coming months, the exact terms and conditions under which the funds will be made available are not yet known.

‘No simple solution’

Commenting on any potential distribution of the package, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) secretary general Eddie Punch said:

“There’s a whole lot of different views on how this should be divided up and there’s also of course the issue of how to calculate it as well.

“How to calculate it will actually be a significant factor because how do you equate the loss on a top-of-the-range Charolais with the loss on an Angus-cross heifer for example – in other words if you have a flat rate per head per animal slaughtered.

But you might have a way bigger loss on a Charolais bull than on a 280kg Angus heifer. That’s all to be trashed out yet; there’s not going to be a simple solution.

Farm leaders have warned against the possibility of factory-owned or factory-controlled feedlots being able to access any of the beef aid package. Instead they are urging that the fund be specifically ring-fenced for “genuine farmers”.