‘Opt out’ facility for cattle tag levies to be introduced

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that farmers will soon be able to opt out of paying ICBF levies when completing cattle tag order forms.

A set of cattle tags, which are ordered through Tipperary-based Mullinahone Co-operative, cost €2.70, and this includes a 38c ‘voluntary’ contribution to the ICBF.

Over the last 10 years, farmers have paid more than €750,000 a year to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation when ordering cattle tags.

While the tag order form does not provide an opt-out facility, farmers can do so by notifying Mullinahone Co-operative in writing or by phone.

However, following reports earlier this week, the Department has confirmed that it “will make arrangements to have an opt-out facility included in the tag order form” during May.

Michael Guinan, Chairperson of ICMSA Livestock Committee, said he is “very happy” with the Department’s decision to amend the tag order form.

“The only criticism we would have had of this is that it was not made clear this was a voluntary levy and farmers had the option to opt out if they wanted to,” Guinan said.

Now that the Department is stepping up to the plate and making that happen, I’m very happy to see it.”

Guinan said that compared to other levies that farmers have to pay, they are getting very good value from the ICBF levy.

He said that the biggest problem with levies in the agricultural sector is that they are not sufficiently transparent as to whether they are optional or compulsory.

“A lot of levies in our sector seem to just slide-in under the radar and some can cost you a lot of money.

“At least with the ICBF levy it’s once a year but with other levies it’s every time you sell product of livestock. Unless you are aware of it and can do something about it, it continues for years and years,” Guinan said.

According to the ICBF, the tag contribution in 2014 totalled €855,024.

It says that the tag contribution is used to fund: Gene Ireland Breeding Programme Activities (both Dairy and Beef); Animal Events Data collection (e.g. Animal Events books, cost of keying data, etc.); and, Genetic Evaluations infrastructure (computers, geneticists).