Responding to IFA President John Bryan, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has acknowledged that action must be taken to address the suckler cow issue saying “ I get the message on suckler cows.”
John Bryan said Minister Coveney must now turn this into real delivery as part of the implementation of the CAP Reform agreement and Budget 2014 this October and bring forward a strong suckler cow payment.
Speaking at the AIB National Livestock Show in Tullamore Co Offaly today (Sunday), IFA President John Bryan said Minister Coveney must take strong and decisive action to stabilise the national suckler cow herd, which he described as the jewel asset of the €2.3 bn. beef and livestock sector. He said
John Bryan said there is intense economic pressure on the suckler cow herd at farm level as a result of severe income difficulties imposed from budget cuts on the farm schemes over the last number of years and the fodder crisis last spring. He said the budget cuts alone, involving the abolition of the suckler cow welfare scheme, cuts to the Disadvantage area scheme and REPS/AEOS, has hit suckler farm incomes by over €130 per cow.
The IFA leader said the pressure on cows was confirmed by the most recent ICBF data confirming a 29% increase in beef cows leaving the national herd and a 7% drop in calving’s to date this year. On top of this, there is widespread evidence that a very significant percentage of cows have not gone back in calf this spring. In addition, he said suckler dispersal sales are widespread in marts across the country.
John Bryan said with a strong commitment from the Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD to protect the suckler herd, Minister Coveney must lead the way at the Cabinet table when the decisions around the Budget are made over the next two months. “The Minister cannot allow himself be left behind in the pre-Budget negotiations”.
John Bryan said, “IFA analysis of the Government’s own figures shows the disproportionate impact on the sector of successive budgets. Since 2008, the total Agriculture spend has been reduced by 41.2%, compared to a reduction of 12.6% for total spending across all Government departments.” The IFA President said the Minister must use the Budget to begin to reverse past draconian cuts to farm schemes which have impacted severely on low-income farmers.”
IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said it is now clear that it was a mistake to abolish the suckler cow welfare scheme in last year’s budget. He said this move on top of the severe winter and fodder crisis rocked confidence in suckler farmers and sent a wrong signal at a crucial time to our most important indigenous industry.
The IFA Livestock leader said the suckler cow herd is the backbone of the beef and livestock sector. An IFA study of the importance of the Cattle and Sheep sectors to the Irish economy by Professor Alan Renwick from UCD shows that the €2.3bn output at farm gate level creates total economic output of €5.7bn. In addition, the Irish cattle and sheep sectors support 100,000 farmers and over 50,000 jobs in the wider economy. “One of the key findings in this report is that each €1 of direct support for cattle and sheep farmers underpins over €4 of aggregate output in the economy.
Henry Burns said maintaining the 1.1m national suckler cow herd is vital in terms of producing the quality beef which enables the sector to secure the high priced premium retail and food service outlets across the UK and Europe. A stable and strong suckler herd is paramount to achieving the Food Harvest 2020 targets which would lead to an increase of €1.6bn in output in the Irish economy, with estimates of an additional 5,000-10,000 jobs created.