Over 1,000 farmers attended an IFA meeting in Claremorris, Co Mayo last night, where the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney got a very strong message about the real concerns of farmers relating to the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme.
IFA President Eddie Downey said the scale of the turnout with thousands of farmers attending eight meetings organised by IFA around the country highlighted the genuine concerns about aspects of the scheme relating to the inflexibility of the six-year rule and clawbacks, the 2014 reference year, young farmers, the 60% genomic testing, star ratings, the replacement requirements, penalties and other issues.
He said there is a responsibility on Minister Coveney to address the real concerns expressed by suckler farmers and provide the necessary assurances and flexibilities to ensure the €52m in funding is paid out annually to farmers.
IFA Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said farmers remain concerned about the six-year rule and clawbacks, the level of genotyping, the requirement to reach four and five stars and the lack of flexibility in the Scheme for farmers who want to progress and develop suckler cow numbers. He said the Minister needs to provide the necessary assurances and flexibilities within the Scheme to resolve these issues.
On the six-year rule and clawback, the Minister said this would only apply to farmers who decided to switch to another enterprise during the term of the Scheme. He acknowledged that mistakes had been made in the communication that was issued to farmers in the first place, from which much of farmers’ concerns arose. He also recognised that a greater level of consultation should have taken place.
Minister Coveney said the Department was willing to look at individual cases if 2014 didn’t work for any farmer as a reference year and that he would establish a Working Group, as suggested by the IFA President, to look at all aspects of the Scheme and review them on an ongoing basis. He said elements of the Scheme that are proving unattainable will have to be revisited. He said the Working Group would have to iron out any difficulties that farmers were experiencing and make the Scheme workable.
IFA lobbied Minister Simon Coveney and the Government hard to deliver the €52m funding for the sector and the Association is determined that the full benefits will be paid out to suckler farmers by December.