Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, was apparently “bombarded with emails” over the course of last weekend – seemingly by random members of the public – advocating for plant-based agriculture and diets.

According to sources close to the minister, the emails were sent on foot of his announcement last Friday of a €50 million fund earmarked for a planned support scheme for beef finishers.

The emails appeared to question the fundamental need for this funding allocation – and beef farming more generally – and called for an increased focus on “sustainable plant-based agriculture”.

It is understood that a majority of the emails, where the writer included his or her address, came from persons living in and around Dublin city.

One email seen by AgriLand – which bizarrely begins “Dear Michael Creed/IFA” – says: “As we recover, I hope our rural communities and small businesses will be supported to diversify into economically, environmentally and nutritionally sustainable agriculture, rather than the unstable reliance upon beef and dairy.”

The email continued: “The Irish beef sector has been shaped into a destructive industry which requires drastic change.

To revive the beef industry without changes is to move backwards. To fund retraining, regenerative practices and sustainable plant-based agriculture is to move forward.

“It is no secret that Irish agriculture cannot possibly continue as it is. Please consider the future of everyone you affect directly and indirectly. Please do not fund reliance upon beef production,” the email concluded.

It is unclear how Minister Creed (or the IFA for that matter) will handle this stinging criticism.

€50 million beef support scheme

The funding that seems to have gotten some people so riled up was announced by Minister Creed last Friday, June 12. The minister described it as “user-friendly as possible”.

Speaking at a cabinet press briefing last Friday, the minister outlined key points regarding the development of the scheme, which he said will include farmer input.

“We would estimate since early March there has been a double whammy in the sense of a significant price collapse but also with regards to a drop in the kill numbers,” Minister Creed explained.

“There are about 50,000 cattle that normally by now would have been slaughtered, so that overhang on the market, plus the price drop, food-service challenge, has led to a very particular impact on beef farms.

We propose obviously to consult with farm organisations, with regard to paying this; our ambition would be to pay it as early as possible. We will require EU approval.

Highlighting earlier work done at EU level, the minister pointed out: “One of the things that we did secure was freedom under state aid rules to support our own sector and as a consequence…we have this €50 million budget.”