‘I do not agree with the proposal for a coupled suckler payment’ – Creed

Calls for a coupled suckler payment were once again dismissed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

During an exchange in the Dail with Fianna Fail TD Bobby Aylward, Minister Creed stated that the current range of supports available to suckler farmers – as well as ensuring access to as many markets as possible for live animals and beef exports – are “appropriate supports” for the continued development of the sector.

National farm survey data suggests that suckler farmers receive support equivalent to approximately €500 / suckler cow on average, the minister added.

Continuing, he noted that the climate change report published by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine last week recommended continued support for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

In the context of the cross-party support of the committee for the BGDP, I do not agree with the proposal for a coupled payment for one million suckler cows – which would cost €200 million per annum and may drive numbers at the expense of the quality being promoted through the BGDP.

“The department has overspent rather than underspent under the Rural Development Programme.

“Unless the deputy proposes closing a current scheme, I do not see how the proposed coupled payment of €200 / sucker cow would be funded. That is the missing chapter in the proposals of the deputy or others who promote that payment.

“The big challenge we are facing is the juggernaut of climate change. If we promote numbers at the expense of quality, that will be made more difficult.”

CAP budget

Meanwhile, the minister added that he continues to argue for “as strong a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget as possible post-2020”.

“I am committed to ensuring that suckler farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP. It is of note that the current draft proposals make provision for coupled payments under Pillar I.

However, as envisaged in the current draft and as was the case in the current round, any coupled payment would require a corresponding decrease in the funding available for the basic payment.

“My view is that payments should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability and economic and environmental efficiency of their farming system,” he said.

Dependence on CAP payments

Despite Irish farmers producing “some of the best beef in the world”, they continue to “depend exclusively” on CAP payments, deputy Aylward argued.

He added that the sector needs to be supported and that suckler farmers are not making enough money to survive.

We must provide support. Every €1 of support provided to suckler farmers generates over €4 of economic activity in rural villages, towns and parishes. That makes economic sense.

As well as that, the Fianna Fail TD questioned the “underspend of money in the department”.

‘We do not have an underspend’

However, Minister Creed rubbished any suggestion of an underspend and outlined that the department is in fact “over-committed by approximately €100 million” over the lifetime of the Rural Development Programme.

Concluding, he said: “If the deputy’s case is entirely predicated on the underspend, it is obvious that the case he is promoting is based on foundations of sand.

“I acknowledge and share his view and that of most members that the suckler cow is the backbone of the beef industry and we must find ways to ensure that those who are most challenged within that sector get more supports.

“That is a priority in the context of the next round of CAP.”