ICSA ‘presses for money for sectors in need’ at Creed meeting

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has called for further funding for the beef, suckler and sheep sectors at a meeting with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

The meeting, which took place today, Thursday, October 24, was attended by ICSA president Edmond Phelan, who said: “The situation for drystock farmers remains critical; suckler, beef and sheep farmers are those who are most in need at this time and where additional spending must be focused.

“While the impact of Brexit on beef has been widely recognised, it must be borne in mind that the sheep sector has been hit with lower prices,” Phelan highlighted.

This is directly linked to Irish lamb price being undermined by UK lamb imports which are much cheaper due to sterling weakness.

“ICSA wants to see more support offered to the sheep sector. Sheep farmers need a BEAM [Beef Exceptional Aid Measure] type scheme. In addition, the Sheep Welfare Scheme needs to be extended beyond this year with a higher rate of payment,” the ICSA president added.

As well as the sheep issue, the association also expressed its ‘frustration’ at the fact that not all the money available under the BEAM scheme will be delivered.

“The 5% reduction has been a major sticking point and ICSA wanted the full €100 million to be delivered by way of higher payment per qualifying animal. Moreover, beef farmers who have killed cattle after the May 12 deadline for BEAM have been hit with the full Brexit impact but are entitled to nothing,” Phelan said.

This is not fair and ICSA wants to see a payment to reflect cattle killed at unsustainable prices in the period May 13 to December 31.

During the meeting, the ICSA welcomed the recent Budget 2020 increase in funding for the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme to €40 million in the coming year, saying this “offers scope” for higher payments per animal.

On the issue of dairy calves, Phelan said: “ICSA believes that a payment to farmers to buy calves from the dairy herd is totally counter-productive.

“It will distort the market and undermine the live export trade for dairy calves. The reality is that meat factories and retailers cannot expect farmers to buy calves when beef price is at €3.50/kg or less,” he added.

The reality is that giving a subsidy to farmers to buy calves from the dairy herd is going to increase the price of calves, which will only benefit the dairy farmer rather than the beef farmer.

“In addition, the proposal would further undermine suckler beef because there would be, effectively, a slaughter premium for dairy beef which would not apply to suckler beef. This cannot be justified,” Phelan concluded.