While the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has repeatedly dismissed farm body calls for a €200 per cow suckler payment, momentum is building that a support could be introduced on the calf.

The possible move, previously mooted by AgriLand, could be conceived as a route to not only boosting incomes for the sector; but also as a way of rewarding efficiency within the national suckler herd.

AgriLand understands that such a support could potentially come to light as part of next week’s Budget 2019 announcement.

Earlier this week, in response to questions tabled by the Agriculture Committee, Minister Creed again reiterated his position that establishing a support scheme to the sum of €200 per suckler cow – essentially a coupled payment – is not his intended “direction of travel“.

While emphasising that he is “acutely aware” of the concerns around the suckler enterprise sector, he said he is “absolutely committed” to ensuring that it remains “a key producer” of high-quality beef.

Driving efficiency

He indicated that anything that might be done for the sector would have to be “within the framework” of driving efficiencies in the herd.

“Very often the department is accused of not having joined-up thinking and I would just say that it is imperative that anything we do – budgetary or at CAP level – is consistent with the obligations that we face under challenges for targets in a reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030.

“That is something that I am acutely conscious of in the context of the sector.

A coupled payment of €200 per cow – which is the ask on every cow – is not the direction of travel we should go in the context of our climate change obligations.

“I think that we need to make sure that, whatever we do, we are consistent with the direction of travel that we have been going on in the context of beef data and genomics – which has been about driving efficiencies in the herd and improving its genetic merit. And that is something which I am conscious of.

“I am in the middle of the overall budget and I cannot go any further than that; but I am aware of the issues for the sector.

“But anything that is done, at any level, has to be within that framework and rightly so because, otherwise, we would be open to the charges that we weren’t being consistent. And certainly a coupled payment is not the direction of travel that we should consider,” he said.

‘I’d give in on the calf’

Meanwhile, speaking recently to AgriLand, Eddie Downey, the former president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), described calls for a €200 payment per suckler cow as “wrong”.

Also Read: Downey: ‘Payment on a suckler cow is wrong – I’d give it on a calf’

Commenting on how the struggling beef sector could be subsidised, he said: “We have got to look at it in a manner that we can drive the efficiencies within the industry.

It’s not good enough to just say: ‘I want €200 per suckler cow’. I think that’s wrong; it’s the wrong comment to make.

“I think what we should be looking for here is a structured system which gives us extra output from that sector and more efficiencies within it.

I wouldn’t give a payment on a suckler cow; I’d give it on a calf. I would give it on output from that cow, not on just having an animal that is non-productive within the system.

“That’s on how that needs to be tailored,” he said.