IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods has said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed can no longer ignore the strong case for €200 for suckler cows.
He pointed out that last week in the Dail, Minister Creed accepted the Fianna Fail motion for €200 for suckler cows as it was clear that any other course of action would have resulted in another defeat for the Government.
Angus Woods said, “The Dail debate was great support for the €200 per cow campaign. I am calling on Minister Creed to come on side and support the campaign, to back Irish suckler farmers and the case for €200 per cow.”
The IFA livestock leader said it was clear from the debate in the Dail that the Minister and the Government are under pressure on sucklers and, indeed, the impression was given that Minister Creed accepts that there is a severe income problem across the livestock sector and the need for additional suckler support.
On the issue of funding, Minister Creed outlined the possible options for additional support for sucklers, coming from exchequer funding and underspend or savings in the current Rural Development Programme, ruling out any possibility of a cut in Pillar I direct payments as an option. The Minister also tried to push out additional funding for sucklers to beyond 2020 as part of the CAP Reform.
Angus Woods said, “Minister Creed is telling farmers that under state aid rules he cannot pay €200 per cow. 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, which can be financed with exchequer funding.
“The Minister and the Government are looking at a financial surplus of over €3bn heading into the next Budget and we are also heading into a possible election this year. The resources are there and it a matter of priorities for Minister Creed”.
Rejecting the spurious argument being put forward that the €200 suckler support will cost other farmers, Angus Woods said IFA is very clear: “We will not pitch farmer against farmer. IFA is demanding new money from the Government for this support and flatly rejects any suggestions that it would be taken from any farmer’s Basic Payment. ”
Angus Woods said it will be a major challenge to get €200 for suckler cows, but IFA is determined to drive this campaign hard. He said, “IFA worked hard and got an extra €50m from the last Minister, Simon Coveney, for the BDGP scheme. While this is worth €80 to €100 per cow, it is too complicated and the scheme got tied up in knots, which turned many farmers off.” He said IFA also succeeded in securing a €10 per ewe sheep welfare scheme and an additional €25m in ANC payments.
The IFA livestock leader said suckler farmers are under severe income pressure and cow numbers are falling. The latest 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.
Angus Woods said suckler farmers need and deserve to be supported. Beef is the most important farming sector in terms of farmer numbers and worth up to €3bn in exports. “There are suckler cows in every parish in the country and they are the backbone of the quality Irish beef sector.” An IFA study, carried out by UCD, shows that every €1 in support for sucklers underpins €4.28 of output in the Irish economy.
IFA and the Irish Farmers Journal are holding nine farmer meetings in marts across the country over the coming weeks to ramp up the campaign for increased support for suckler farmers. The next meeting takes place in Castleisland Mart Co Kerry on Tuesday March 6th at 7pm and all farmers are invited to attend.