The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine “could be the difference” in clamping down on the lack of transparency, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Four IFA representatives were brought before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday (Tuesday, December 18) to discuss a report commissioned by the farmer group on the importance of the suckler sector to Irish agriculture and the Irish economy.

Alongside IFA president Joe Healy were: IFA director general Damian McDonald; IFA director of livestock Kevin Kinsella; and IFA Livestock Committee chairman Angus Woods.

Speaking during the meeting, livestock chair Woods urged the Oireachtas committee to work on the transparency.

One of the key problems in this sector is a lack of transparency – and a lack of transparency builds a lack of trust between the parties involved. If there’s no transparency, there’s no trust.

“I certainly feel the Oireachtas committee here is a place that you can make a really positive step forward in terms of transparency; root down, get the figures, what is happening in that space.

“The minister says he can’t do anything on price, but transparency is something I really feel politicians have a role to play in. I feel it could be worked on,” he said.

The IFA chairman also commented on the topic of farmers forming producer groups, which a number of Oireachtas committee members suggested during the questioning dialogue yesterday.

We are licenced and registered to facilitate producer organisations and we have been saying, quite clearly, that if any group of farmers want assistance in that, we will help them out in that space.

Meanwhile, IFA president Joe Healy commented on the frustration felt by the association when attending the Beef Forum industry stakeholder meeting.

“I know that I would have found a number of the meetings I was at nothing more than talking shops,” Healy said, adding that he hoped such meetings would improve and issues could be dealt with.

Targeted payments

The IFA representatives continued the farm lobby group’s push for a €200/cow suckler payment.

Following on from the announcement in Budget 2019 of a soon-to-be-introduced targeted payment of €40/cow under the new Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme, the IFA also voiced support for such strategic supports under the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020.

“We’re talking about targeted payments as opposed to coupled payments; there was a drive to push for coupled payments by various people in the media. We were always on targeted payments,” Woods claimed.

Kinsella also highlighted that any targeted payments toward suckler cows should come from CAP Pillar II schemes.

CAP Pillar II schemes don’t involve having any negative impact on the Basic Payment to farmers. And we’ve been crystal clear on that.

“We have discussed this in the EU Commission and they have explained to us that the only thing we are short of in trying to make an additional payment of €200 to suckler cows is resources. So it’s a combination of national resources and CAP Pillar II funding going forward,” he concluded.