Aspects of the new Beef Data and Genomics Programme contract are unacceptable, according to ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher.
He said while the ICSA welcome the scheme as a much-needed income boost for suckler farmers, it cannot accept the condition that farmers who pull out of the scheme at any stage will have to pay back any monies received up to that point.
“We’re not talking about people who pull out in the middle of a year, but if a farmer has completed all the requirements for a full year of the scheme, then his payment for that year should be his to keep whether or not he completes the following year.
“Why should he have to return money that he has legitimately earned?,” Kelleher asked.
He said there are many genuine reasons why someone might have to withdraw from the scheme during the six years including death, illness, family or financial difficulties.
“However, the biggest reason that a beef farmer might want to pull out is lack of profit,” he said.
According to Kelleher farmers must be allowed to review an enterprise on a regular basis and if it is not sufficiently profitable, they must be allowed to change direction without penalty.
“Any rule which puts a gun to the head of farmers forcing them to stay at suckler farming is only of benefit to meat factories.
“Farm schemes should not be devised which disadvantage beef farmers and benefit meat factories,” he said.
“It is disgrace that a farmer in such a situation would have to pay back money he had earned while fulfilling every other requirement of the programme.”
Mr. Kelleher also raised doubts about the intransigent terms relating to four and five-star ICBF ratings.
He said while work being done by ICBF to develop indexes is worthwhile, there are still a lot of issues around whether the science has been perfected.
“It is not acceptable that a farmer might lose money for failure to reach the four-star target for replacements, given that so much hinges on breeding decisions already taken.
We have to recognise that smaller suckler herds will have difficulty justifying the cost of a four/five star stock bull.
Kelleher also said he is hugely concerned that forcing people to breed heifers which are four or five-star on the replacement index will compromise their ability to produce export weanlings.
He also criticised the substantial increase in the DNA testing levels as imposing too much cost.
“The new scheme looks for 60% DNA testing which is, in our view, excessive, and will cost approximately €18 for every cow in the herd at a rate of €30 per sample.”