Hill farmers say genomics scheme does not suit its members

Brendan O’Malley, National Chair of the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has questioned whether the Beef Data & Genomics Programme was designed to only suit farmers with larger cow numbers.

The INHFA has taken issue with Minister Simon Coveney and his officials regarding the inaccessibility to many of the Rural Development Schemes for the 40,000 farmers whose interests it represents.

O’Malley said that the programme had originally targeted 35,000 farmers with a maximum cow number of 560,000.

“However the fact that the cow number will exceed 600,000 cows from only 30,000 farmers clearly indicates that it is the farmers with larger herds that are joining,” he said.

At present there are over 39,000 farmers with 10 or less cows and many of these farmers have decided not to join because the scheme is not suited to their needs, the INHFA says.

O’ Malley said it is seeing similar problems in GLAS with over 90% of commonage farmers deciding not to join.

The INHFA says that issues regarding the minimum/maximum figures, collective punishment, the implications for stable flocks, the cost of the management plans and how they will be paid for will have to be sorted before there will be a uptake in the numbers applying.

“For some time now we have being looking for support for the hill sheep sector which is the poorest performing sector in farming and support for this sector has to be a priority.

“The INHFA is willing to discuss potential solutions with the Minister and his officials provided they are willing to find a fair solution for all farmers,” O’Malley said.