Farmers confront meat industry with 86-point draft beef plan

The draft of a new beef plan – titled ‘Beef Plan 2018-2025’ – was recently unveiled by a group of beef farmers in Co. Meath.

Put forward at a meeting last night (Monday, September 24), the document accuses the corporate sector of “systematically siphoning” profitability from farmers each year to the tune of €300 million.

The plan, seen by AgriLand, proposes 86 points across eight phases – from farm to abattoir – to address the issues of unsustainable farming and low prices.

It is believed that the draft plan was formulated by members of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA). It was also recently presented to beef farmers in Co. Louth and is expected to be shown to farmers in Co. Kildare over the coming weeks.

It is understood that the group behind the plan has described itself as “a representative group of knowledgeable beef farmers”.

The plan

“Unless and until beef farmers can unite behind a workable beef plan which guarantees a fair price for their cattle, they and their families will continue to be working slaves for a dominant and extremely profitable corporate sector into the future,” the plan details.

The key objective is cost of production plus a margin for cattle sold, as a minimum base price, according to the plan.

The group alleges that Irish beef factories which claim to have no money are driving farmers out of finishing cattle, “taking over our yards at an alarming rate” and collapsing the price of cattle.

The farmers say that a beef plan for beef farmers is badly needed, similar to plans in place for retailers and factories.

The group has said that such a plan requires the backing of at least 60% of beef farmers and that it has submitted its plan to all farmer unions.

8 phases

The proposed phases identify different aspects that need to be targeted, including: sustainable price and factories; animal health; purchasing groups; producer groups; farm safety; government schemes; farm unions; and abattoirs.

The first phase details handing in a list of demands to factories and looking for a response within a set time period – after which, a number of options would be implemented to disrupt cattle supplies.

Such measures would include: refusing to send in any cattle to any factory on a given day, at a few hours’ notice; refusing to supply a selected factory at short notice; and other such measures, up to and including bringing “all the factories to a stop”.

A suckler-bred bonus is also called for to reflect the increased cost of suckler-bred cattle compared to dairy-bred animals, the group says – while a confirmation bonus is also proposed.

A fair price for the fifth quarter for farmers is another proposal which has been put forward by the group in the plan.

‘Unfair trading practices’

Meanwhile, the group has issued a point seeking to clarify what exactly is defined as unfair trading practices and for a list to be furnished with evidence of such methods.

To underline such practices allegedly carried out by factories and retailers, the group proposes that a protest takes place outside the competition authority’s office on a continuing basis until demands are met.

Another proposal seeks the total number of calves born – over the next three years – to be reduced by 10%, albeit on a voluntary basis.

Producer groups are a key part of the plan put forward, with a target set for 50% of Irish beef cattle to be sold through producer groups in the next three years.

TB is another crucial concern in the plan, with a ramping up of measures such as badger and deer culling called for.

In addition, the plan calls for the levels of ‘red tape’ to be reduced and it states that a complete revision of the current TB Eradication Scheme should be carried out.

The plan is seen as a draft that can be adjusted and added to as circumstances change, the group contends.