Speaking at the National Livestock Show in Tullamore, IFA President John Bryan said renewing the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme in the forthcoming budget for 2013 and future years will be an acid test of Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney’s commitment to the beef and livestock sector.
John Bryan said the Suckler Cow Welfare scheme is vital to suckler farmers going forward and the beef sectors ability to grow and service high quality retail market outlets in line with the Food Harvest 2020 targets.
The IFA President called on Minister Coveney to close off any uncertainty over the scheme’s future
at this stage. He said the recent Value For Money Review of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme undertaken by Minister Coveney’s own Department in conjunction with the Department of Finance recognised the major contribution of the scheme and most importantly recommended its future continuation.
John Bryan said the Value For Money report outlined that the scheme is a success in terms of delivering improvements in animal welfare, the collection of breeding data and improved competitiveness of the beef sector. He said it would be a major error not to continue with the scheme as it would result in the loss of existing and substantial future gains for the beef sector.
The IFA President said there can be no more cuts to farm schemes in the Budget for 2013 and Minister Coveney would have to look elsewhere for savings. He said farmers are encountering an extremely difficult year as a result of the dreadful weather conditions, soaring input costs and falling prices in many commodities, all of which will impact severely on farm incomes.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said that there are up to 35,000 farmers involved in the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme with 650,000 suckler cows. He said a lot of the administration problems with the scheme have now been resolved and it is operating much better. He added that the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme is absolutely essential in terms of securing the data to drive future genetic improvement in the Irish beef sector which has the potential to deliver gains of up to €100m per annum.
Henry Burns said all of the key players in the beef and livestock sector have highlighted the important role of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme including Bord Bia, ICBF, Teagasc, livestock marts, live exporters and meat processors.
The IFA livestock leader said our suckler herd is a real national asset and the backbone of our €2bn beef and livestock sector involving 150,000 farmers and jobs and 500,000 tonnes of beef exports. He said suckler beef production is the largest farming activity in Ireland with a major geographic distribution providing critically important economic activity in every parish and county.