Farmer frustration: ‘Everyone else along the line is protected’

Once lambs leave the farmer’s gate at the start of the food supply chain, everyone else along the chain is protected financially, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) sheep chairman John Brooks has said.

Speaking to host Claire McCormack on the latest episode of FarmLand, Brooks said that the incoming implementation of electronic identification (EID) tagging is proof of no such protection for sheep farmers.

“We already have all sorts of levies when we go to the meat plant and sell our lamb,” he said.

“At the bottom there are levies taken off for Bord Bia, EIF, a Sheep Ireland levy, veterinary levies – there are all sorts of levies.

‘Just another levy’

“We just see this as another levy and we’re saying stop – enough is enough, you cannot take anymore out of our pockets.

“What’s happening at the moment is, when I sell my lamb, when my lamb leaves my farm or Sean’s farm or the 34,000 sheep farmers that are out there, everybody else, right down the line is protected,” Brooks said.

“There is minimum wages, they are going to get a profit out of my product but there is no protection for me or the 34,000 other sheep farmers out there.

We are on our own; we have to bear all the risk, do all the work and make all the sacrifices and we have no protection with minimum wages or any terms and conditions.

“But everybody else, right up to the chef that cooks that meat, is protected under some form or other and they are making some form of profit on it and we have to suffer and take all the risk and now suffer a 7% cut in our income just to facilitate the greedy meat industry.”

Brooks noted that the issue had come up for discussion regularly at ICSA meetings, adding that the organisation was going to continue lobbying to “try and persuade the department and the minister to see the nonsense of this”.

There’s nothing magical about an EID tag.

He stressed that sheep tags, whether EID or tip tag, all contain the same information, adding that the only difference is being able to scan them electronically: “They contain the same information but it’s taking an extra euro per lamb out of Sean’s pocket, my pocket and the other 34,000 sheep farmers that are out there.”