In a frank meeting with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in Dublin today, IFA President Eddie Downey said the Minister must address the concerns of suckler farmers on aspects of the New Beef Data and Genomics Scheme so that it delivers for suckler farmers.
Eddie Downey and National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns told Minister Coveney that suckler farmers are very frustrated that criteria around the six-year rule and payment claw backs are being put in the way of what is a good support for the suckler cow herd. “IFA also raised issues on the 2014 reference year, the replacement requirement, the level of genotyping, stocking rate, penalties, and made it clear to the Minister and the Department that they must address and clarify these issues.”
In response, Minister Coveney acknowledged the issues raised by IFA are of real concern to farmers and said he had discussed the matter with the Taoiseach today as well as receiving a lot of representations from TDs all over the country.
Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney made it clear he wants as many suckler farmers as he can get into the scheme and he strongly encouraged farmers to apply. In addition, the Minister said the Department will be flexible and are not trying to exclude or catch out people under the six-year rule. He confirmed that “the Department will not be going after farmers to return payments, who have to exit the scheme for genuine reasons and they will be as accommodating as possible, including in the application of the force majeure rules”.
On the problems with the 2014 reference year, Minister Coveney said in cases where there are real problems such as disease or other issues, the Department will be flexible and will allow farmers the option of using 2015 as the reference year. The Minister also confirmed that the Department will use 2015 as the reference year for new entrants.
In relation to farmer concerns on penalties, Minister Coveney said that any penalties under the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme will not be applied to any other schemes. The Minister was challenged on this issue, but made it absolutely clear that penalties arising from the BDGS will not be applied to other schemes.
Eddie Downey said the Minister accepted that there are a significant number of difficult technical issues under the scheme that must be addressed, including accepting 4 and 5 star calves and weanlings to meet the replacement requirements and committed the Department to continuing to work with the IFA to try and resolve these issues for farmers.
The IFA President said Minister Coveney also committed to a mid-term review of the scheme saying that any aspects that proved unworkable would have to be re-negotiated in Brussels and changed.
On the well-attended farmer meetings taking place around the country on the Scheme, Minister Coveney said the Department should attend to provide the necessary information and detail on the scheme.
Henry Burns said IFA had worked very hard to get the €52m funding for the scheme and were determined that farmers will get the benefit of this. He said IFA should have been consulted about the details of the scheme before the decisions were made by the Department in Brussels. He added the Minister reiterated his absolute commitment on delivering all payments under this year’s scheme in December, saying the Departments “needs to get €50m paid out before the end of the year”.
On a New Charter of Farmers Rights, IFA Deputy President Tim O Leary said Minister Coveney said he will finalise the Charter negotiations next week and will address the issues on no notice inspections as well as other outstanding issues.