IFRG reiterates calls for €300/cow suckler scheme and new REPS

The Irish Family-Farm Rights Group (IFRG) has reiterated calls for a new farm environmental scheme, similar to the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), also calling for a €300/head Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme.

The group made the renewed call at its latest public farmers’ meeting it organised in Castleisland, Co. Kerry, last night, Thursday, February 6.

A number of local politicians were present on the night including MEP Seán Kelly and Kerry TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae.

Addressing the attendees on the night, IFRG chairman Donie Shine said: “The next government must 100% co-fund the monies available from the EU for an environmental scheme.”

Similarly we need a properly funded Suckler Welfare Scheme that would pay €300/cow on the first 20 cows of a herd if we are to protect the suckler beef sector against its current challenges.

The chairman said that such a scheme would incentivise positive animal welfare practices, including limited or zero antibiotic use and promote properly weaned, fit-for-transport animals.

“The market is currently failing the beef producer; and until the cartel-like predatory pricing practices of the meat processing industry are dismantled it is incumbent on the Government to protect the price taker – the farmer,” Shine said.

The chairman stressed that Irish beef “also needs to be marketed properly and any meats from outside the country, such as South American beef, must be labelled as such so that consumers know exactly what they are buying,” he said.

Turning to the age profile of farmers, farmers were told that, to facilitate farm generation renewal and the early transfer of land holdings from one farming generation to the next, the old Early Retirement Scheme must be reintroduced.

“We have an ageing farming population with nobody coming on after it to take over. Only 5% of farmers are now under 35 years of age.”

Turning to the matter of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments such as the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payment, Shine said:

“Farmers on the ground, especially in the west, are telling us that there should be a ceiling equivalent to the average industrial wage at the very most put on any farmer’s single farm payment.

They are saying that the single farm payment is meant to be a low farm income support payment to ensure that as many family farms as possible remain viable.

“They are saying that it is not meant to be a supplement to the profits of already viable farm enterprises, feedlots, or meat processing plants,” he claimed.

Finally, the chairman appealed to farmers to sign the group’s petition, stating: “This is the final call for the low to middle income farmers on the ground to be heard before the next CAP, REPS and suckler cow schemes are finalised soon and for the next seven years or more.

“Our current spring schedule of nationwide public farmers’ meetings will continue with our next meeting to take place at the Loughrea Hotel, Loughrea, Co. Galway on Thursday, February 20, at 8:00pm.

As well as our current petition for a new REPS and €300 Suckler Cow Scheme there will be a new petition available for signing for the fairer distribution of EU CAP monies to all Irish farmers.

“We will be targeting 40,000 signatures on all petitions which, if reached, will entitle us to bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights,” Shine concluded.