Elected representatives must resist suckler cut proposals – INHFA

Elected representatives are being urged to resist any proposals to cut the number of suckler cows under the regulations for the beef aid package.

That’s the message from the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA), which was responding to the ‘draft implementation regulation’ set out by the EU for its half of the €100 million.

Colm O’Donnell, the association’s president, said that “it is shameful that an Irish commissioner [Phil Hogan] and his team of officials, which has a sizeable Irish influence, would put forward a proposal that targets our suckler farmers in the poorer regions”.

O’Donnell stated that it was these farmers who were supplying “the most public goods”, in terms of biodiversity and nature conservation, as well as supporting local co-ops and feed merchants.

He stressed that the regulation contains an accommodation to allow for pay-outs to be made through the meat processors, and the possibility that payments under Pillar II of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) could be dependent on reducing stock.

He went on to accuse Commissioner Hogan of wanting “to wipe out suckler farmers in what he terms the poorer regions”.

“While in this draft proposal he didn’t specify a geographical area, based on his previous comments it would indicate he is referring to our western seaboard and many parts of the midlands,” O’Donnell said.

The newly re-elected INHFA president continued: “These suckler cows – which contribute over €750 million per year across 66,000 families in areas of the country where other types of economic activity are limited, [Commissioner Hogan] wants to replace with trees.

But sadly, as these trees grow, communities will die, which is why this fight is not just about farmers.

O’Donnell argued that a reduction in the suckler herd would have a number of serious repercussions for other areas of the rural economy.

“It is a fight to keep our local co-operatives, hardware and feed merchants, rural shops and post offices open. It’s a fight to maintain our schools and other services. It’s a fight to keep our GAA, soccer and other sports clubs going,” he claimed.

O’Donnell concluded by adding: “It’s a fight for our youth to ensure the place they now call home will always be there for them. It’s a fight for those of us that are getting older, to know that whatever uncertainty this brings; we can face it in our community with our families by our side.

“It’s a fight to be able to pass on a way of life that we cherish to future generations,” he said.