ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has called on Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to ‘drive on’ the campaign to develop a suckler beef brand.
Speaking at the AGM and conference of the ICSA, Mr Kelleher said, ‘There must be absolute commitment from all stakeholders to turn this dream to reality. The first steps have been taken at the Beef Taskforce, with the commitment of funds to Bord Bia for initial market research and development.
‘But on its own, this will not be enough. I don’t want to see us falling at the first hurdle. Developing a suckler brand will require trial and error. It will need absolute commitment from Bord Bia and 100% support from the Minister and the Department.
‘It will also need full buy-in from meat factories and, to concentrate minds, I am calling on the Minister to attach conditionality to the €100 million Brexit funds secured for processors. I believe that there are two essential conditions that should apply to beef processors getting some of this money.
‘The first is absolute commitment to price transparency and co-operation with the food ombudsman. The second is that meat processors who are committing their own resources to the suckler brand should get priority for the funding.
‘This fund is explicitly for the processing and marketing initiatives of processors and we believe that it must be used to develop suckler beef as a premium brand with a view to returning a strong premium to suckler beef producers.’
The ICSA leader also called on the Minister to find a solution to the BEAM scheme difficulty: ‘We cannot have a scenario where thousands of farmers are forced to return badly-needed money due to missing the unworkable 5% reduction. ICSA has already proposed that alternatives such as trailing shoe and protected urea be used as an alternative for those who don’t meet the 5%.
‘This is actually a more true and genuine way to reduce carbon rather than selling cattle to other farmers which doesn’t achieve anything. An extension to the end of the year is not the solution, it is simply kicking the can down the road.’
Mr Kelleher continued: ‘We want the minister to deliver a significant portion of the €1.05 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve to the drystock sector. Cattle and sheep farmers are enduring their fifth year of economic turmoil because of Brexit. Uncertain market conditions remain, and the impact of that market uncertainty continues to hit hardest in in the lower income farming sectors.
‘In the longer term,’ he added, ‘ICSA wants a CAP that prioritises low-income cattle, sheep and tillage farmers. The eco-scheme must be simple, and it should favour less intensive farmers. Farmers must be given the means to deliver on ambitious targets and rewarded for their contribution.
Mr Kelleher urged the Minister to inject a new sense of urgency into the Beef Taskforce and also called for greater price transparency around sheep meat. He was also critical of the TB Eradication Strategy and expressed alarm at the EU Biodiversity Strategy
The ICSA president said they were in favour of increasing supports for organic farming and for tillage.