IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods has called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to come on board with farmers and support the strong case for increased targeted support for the suckler cow herd of €200 per cow.
Angus Woods said figures from the 2017 Teagasc National Farm Income survey released today show that the real problem on suckler farms is low incomes. “The survey shows that the average suckler income is only €12,500. This clearly demonstrates the need for strong additional support for suckler farmers.”
He said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and the Department cannot continue to ignore the severe income crisis in livestock. “Saying no to proposals to try and improve suckler incomes is not an option.”
The IFA livestock leader said suckler farmers are under severe income pressure and cow numbers are falling. The figures from ICBF show that suckler registrations are down by 20,272 to 943,503. Since 2012, overall numbers have fallen by 132,207, which is a 12% reduction from the peak.
“Minister Creed is telling farmers that under State Aid rules he cannot pay €200 per cow and he keeps referring to coupled payments and taking money from other farmers”.
Angus Woods said IFA has been to Brussels and the EU Commission is clear that Ireland can make a targeted payment of €200 per cow under the animal welfare option in the CAP Rural Development Plan. In addition, the IFA proposal is not based on taking any money from any other farmer and involves a targeted payment per cow under the CAP Pillar II, financed from additional exchequer funding and RDP savings. “IFA is demanding new money from the Government for this support and flatly reject any suggestions that it would be taken from any farmer’s Basic Payment.”
“The Minister and the Government are looking at a financial surplus of over €3bn heading into the Budget next October. The resources are there and it a matter of priorities for Minister Creed”.
Angus Woods said the suckler cow herd is the backbone of the Irelands €3bn beef and livestock sector, providing top quality beef to make Ireland the fourth largest beef exporter in the world, with 557,000t exported to over 85 markets worldwide, accounting for 20% of all food exports. “There are suckler cows in every parish in the country and they are the backbone of the quality Irish beef sector.”
A study for IFA by UCD Professor of Agricultural Economics Alan Renwick shows that each €1 of support invested in the beef sector, underpins over €4.38 in output in the Irish economy. At local level, the study showed that the cattle sector is embedded in the local economy, with 80% of cattle output sold in the area and over 90% of inputs sourced in the local area.
Angus Woods said the suckler cow sector delivers substantial public goods in terms of jobs, economic output and activity across all rural areas and positive environmental credentials through natural grassland farming with low carbon emissions (fifth lowest in the EU) and high animal welfare standards.