The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to insist on monthly meetings of the Beef Market Taskforce.

ICSA president Edmond Phelan said that this must be done with a view to progressing the appointment of a regulator and the delivery of all the other commitments made under the beef agreement.

This was one of the key demands set out by the ICSA at a meeting with the minister yesterday (Wednesday, September 9).

Other ICSA requests included:
  • The minister to chair the TB Forum with a view to getting TB policy “back on track” following the issuing of TB Herd History Risk Statements;
  • A Sheep Taskforce;
  • Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) status exclusively for sucklers;
  • A commitment to a Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) like scheme with treble the funding of the current Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environmental Scheme (GLAS);
  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments targeted at low income sectors such as cattle, sheep and tillage; and
  • Contingency plans to access the EU €5 billion fund in the case of a bad Brexit outcome.

Commenting after the meeting, Phelan said: “The ICSA stressed the need for the minister to inject a sense of urgency into the beef taskforce.

“We made it clear that strong and robust regulation in the sector is long overdue. The taskforce needs to bring about total transparency in the beef food chain and must ensure that neither processor nor retailer can abuse their dominant positions.

A regulator with real powers to investigate what goes on along the entire food chain must be made a reality.

The president added that his organisation urged Minister McConalogue to “immediately take ownership” of the TB Forum, claiming that the current breakdown in policy between farmers and officials “has the potential to derail the entire TB Eradication Programme”.

Turning to the sheep sector, Phelan called for a sector taskforce, adding: “There are inadequate supports through the Sheep Welfare Scheme; there is a lack of transparency around sheep imports, and there has been a complete collapse of wool prices.”

Criticising the current PGI application position for “all beef”, he said:

The ICSA is adamant suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a unique high value product and as such should be prioritised in any application for PGI status.

The organisation said it sought a commitment from Minister McConalogue to push for additional exchequer funds for the farming sector.

“ICSA has calculated that an annual budget of €750 million, or three times the current GLAS budget, is required to roll out an effective new REPS type scheme.

“It is clear exchequer funding, on top of CAP, will be required if we are genuine about playing our part in the EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies, getting real results, and rewarding farmers for their role.”

Concluding, Phelan said:

Brexit and CAP reform remain critical in determining the future for Irish farming.

“However, it is essential that economic sustainability is delivered to Irish drystock farmers and ICSA looks forward to working closely with Minister McConalogue.”