Minister ‘exploring options’ for ICSA to join Bord Bia meat and livestock board

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said he is “actively exploring” the options available to him to place the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) on the Bord Bia meat and livestock board.

Speaking at the ICSA’s AGM and Annual Conference this evening (Thursday, January 28), the minister welcomed Dermot Kelleher to his new role as president of the association.

“Over the past few decades, the ICSA [has] proven themselves to be a constructive partner,” the minister said.

I think the ICSA’s voice will be a very valid one on this board. I will be engaging with Bord Bia in the coming days to move this forward.

“I look forward to the ICSA contributing in the time ahead in that regard.”

The comments come as AgriLand recently highlighted the lack of ICSA representation on the board in a commentary article by journalist, Richard Halleron.

Also Read: Bord Bia must officially recognise ICSA

The minister took a large number of questions from farmers who attended the virtual meeting, with topics including CAP; farm inspections; BEAM; Organic Farming Scheme; and a suckler beef brand, amongst many others.

‘Do we just have to take what we’re just going to be offered by factories?’

Jerry Harrington asked the minister that during his tenure, “can you ever see farmers receiving the cost price per kilo for production of beef or do we just have to take what we’re just going to be offered by factories?”.

He asked the minister for measures to be put in place to protect farmers’ incomes because of this.

The minister responded, saying “the starting point here is we’re an exporting food nation; 90% of all the food we produce goes abroad; and it’s very much market-led and it’s determined by what price is available to the markets we sell into”.

“Now, critical to that is that we see transparency in the food supply chain; and that we see farmers get a fair share of the price that’s available in the market; and that they don’t get squeezed and don’t end up not getting paid for the tremendous hard work – the massive part of the equation they represent and what the whole food supply chain is,” the minister said.

“Too often do we see that the cost price isn’t being covered.

We can’t achieve a situation where we set the price as an exporting nation; if you were to set the price domestically, then you would have nowhere to sell it to internationally if it was out of kilter with what the international market was at.

“I don’t agree with a situation where we see food cut and below-cost by supermarkets; we need to see a situation where there’s proper respect.”

‘30% or 40% of it gone in administration’

Jimmy Cosgrave raised his concerns about administration burdens, asking the minister when farmers are going to get a scheme “where the department says farmers are going to get €30 million, and they’ll get all of the money? Not lose 35% or 40% of it”.

“We have a concern here as farmers involved in such schemes, we have to do all these terms and conditions to fulfil obligations to get the money.”

The minister replied: “Whenever the CAP would have started off, it was primarily about supporting farmers in relation to producing food that was of a very high quality; but which ultimately ended up costing less to the consumer because the fact that farmers were supported through the CAP to produce that food.

Increasingly, over the last couple of CAPS, we’ve seen the priority in terms of how that public money is spent. It’s no longer just about producing high quality food; it’s also about the contribution that’s made in relation to the environmental side.

“I want to ensure that schemes are designed in a way that is practical for farmers, that delivers income while delivering the outcomes as well.”