THE European Commission is calling on Irish beef farmers to reduce the suckler herd as one of the conditions to draw down funds under the €100 million compensation package – €50m in EU money, to be matched by €50m in national funds – as announced last month.
The draft piece of legislation on exceptional aid – up for a vote on June 20th – states that the support will be given on condition that measures ‘taken by Ireland shall be aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector.’
It also encourages Ireland to implement one or more of the following objectives: implement quality schemes in the beef and veal sector or projects aimed at promoting quality schemes; boost market diversification and protect and improve farmers’ ‘environmental, climate and economic sustainability.’
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is vehemently opposed to the draft terms and conditions of the proposal, with its president, Joe Healy, saying that Minister Michael Creed ‘must reject all conditionality in the draft regulation that does not relate to the actual income losses experienced by beef and suckler farmers.’
He insisted that the ‘Brexit beef fund’ was for ‘retrospective beef price losses that farmers have already incurred.’
The Athenry dairy farmer described restructuring as a ‘totally separate matter,’ which ‘was not mentioned by Commissioner Hogan when the scheme was announced and was not part of the IFA submission on Brexit losses.’
The Department has until July 31st to respond with a description of the measures to be taken, while the money is expected to be paid out to farmers in the autumn.
• Rose O’Donovan is editor-in-chief of the Brussels-based publication Agra Facts.