Eddie Downey’s dash to repudiate the suggestion that beef farmers should pay a specific Teagasc research levy really is a bit rich.
Let’s not forget that his own organisation, the IFA, is the beneficiary of a levy paid by almost every livestock farmer in the country, the justification for which is never aired or debated from one year’s end to the next.
And, in the case of the European Involvement Fund (EIF) levy, we are not taking petty cash: it is reputed to be adding €4.5m to the IFA coffers every year.
Of course, these sums are likely to increase in line with the expansion of cattle numbers that will materialise within Irish agriculture over the coming years.
Yes, there may well be a reduction in the size of the national sucker herd. But, this will be more than compensated for by the envisaged 300,000 increase in the number of dairy cows required to allow Ireland meet its Harvest 2020 target.
And, just in case it has been overlooked, the IFA was one of the very few organisations to directly benefit from last year’s crisis within the beef sector. As the supply of finished cattle to the plants increased with every week that went by, the Farm Centre cash register just kept on making that oh so familiar ‘ka-ching’ noise.
But, in defence of Eddie Downey, he is absolutely right in pointing out that farmers are very frustrated with the lack of progress on beef research in Ireland over recent years. In response to this, Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle would, no doubt, say ‘where’s the money?’
One possible way out of this dilemma would be for the IFA to propose that an agreed proportion of future EIF monies should be earmarked to fund specific beef related research projects.
And, by taking the moral high ground in this way the IFA would shame the other organisations in receipt of EIF funding to follow suit. It all sounds like a win:win scenario to me.