The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has today (Thursday, December 16) set out a series of proposals to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to provide substantial funding to active farmers in the beef, suckler, and sheep sectors.
The association is calling for the funding to help farmers deliver “win/win” solutions on climate change.
In a meeting with Minister Charlie McConalogue, ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said that the achievement of climate targets is totally dependent on keeping farmers viable in the cattle and sheep sectors.
“Policies that involve getting farmers to quit or to substantially undermine the productivity of their farms is a road to nowhere,” Kelleher said.
“Land will have to be farmed and food will have to be produced and the question is how to do this with the correct balance between profit and sustainability.
“ICSA is adamant that [this] means a resilient beef finishing sector as well as keeping our less intensive suckler and sheep sectors intact to the greatest extent possible.”
ICSA proposes supports
The ICSA has proposed additional supports of €80 million for store and beef producers, €60 million for suckler producers and €50 million for the sheep sector, along with €50 million for red clover reseeding.
In addition, the association has said that money will be needed to offset methane-reducing feed additives and overall, the ICSA sees that costing €250 million per year for the next seven years.
“This is the minimum package we want to see to support active farmers, and this must be at the centre of the climate targets,” Kelleher continued.
“In practice it would include incentives for weighing on a regular basis, allocated to DNA-tested animals only, and a scheme to incentivise increased efficiency around suckler calving.
“A key point is that reducing calving interval and average first-calving date must be realistic and based on marginal improvements across the board rather than any demand to calve at two-years-old.
“It is not a saleable proposition to tell farmers that they must switch from three-year-old to two-year-old calving. However, if every farmer calved a month earlier on average, and eliminated passenger cows, there would be significant economic and climate gains,” Kelleher added.
The ICSA is urging the minister to bring a positive package forward to bring profitability back into the suckler, beef and sheep sectors.
“Failure to do this will simply result in a continuing exodus to more intensive dairy farming,” Kelleher explained.
“No sector is being asked to do as much per capita as some 100,000 livestock farmers.
“Drystock farmers, in particular, stand ready and eager to adapt to our new climate realities but these are low-income sectors; they need significant financial support, and the government has an obligation to provide that support,” he said.
During the meeting with the minister, Kelleher insisted that all farmers who applied to ACRES should be admitted to the scheme straight away.
“It makes no sense whatsoever to excluding 16,000 farmers who are champing at the bit to get on with meeting our climate goals, Kelleher stressed.
“It is also unjust that these farmers will be financially penalised as they will miss out on a payment that heretofore has been a part of their annual income.”