€40m pilot scheme needed for suckler farmers ‘to meet societal demands’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has been called on by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) to create a pilot scheme to help suckler farmers meet European “societal demands” that are being put on beef farmers.

In a statement, INHFA president Colm O’Donnell reiterated his calls on the minister to target the €40 million available for the suckler sector in 2020 towards such a pilot scheme.

This scheme, he said, would “help to transition all suckler farmers to meet the societal demands being placed on beef production by the European Commission in the next iteration of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)”.

“While this is the huge challenge, there’s an opportunity for the minister and the Department of Agriculture to now come forward with a well-thought-out sustainable suckler scheme that meets the societal demands set out in Objective 9 of the CAP Legislative Proposals,” O’Donnell explained.

These demands centre around public health, animal health and welfare, insisting on a reduction in antibiotic usage in beef production.

“I am calling on Minister Creed to look seriously at drawing up a pilot scheme that meets these societal demands – but, most importantly, that all suckler farmers that are currently excluded from the most recent offerings drawn up by his department, can now become part of his plans going forward.”

Continuing, the president said: “Currently, 75% of our 60,000 suckler farmers are excluded from BDGP [Beef Data and Genomics Programme], BEEP [Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot] and BEAM [Beef Exceptional Aid Measure] because of either budget constraints, conditionality or the complexities associated with compliance.

Enough is enough – if the majority of suckler farmers in this country are ignored this time then there’s only one other option left.

“That’s to inform the European Commission by next August 2020 of the need to provide sectoral support to sucklers which is catered for under omnibus regulation making it possible to couple support to a vulnerable sector,” the president concluded.