€120m needed in budget to support suckler farmers – INHFA

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers are calling for the allocation of €120m in the upcoming budget to develop a new ‘Sustainable Suckler Cow Payment.’ The call which is part of their pre-Budget submission is, stated National President Colm O’Donnell “the strongest message possible to our Ministers, Government and all Politicians that action on this is needed now in order to ensure the survival of this sector.”

The ongoing decline in suckler cow numbers has seen the national herd fall by almost 10% over the last four years alone and also a significant fall in calf registrations to beef dams of over 100,000 since 2012. With the difficult weather conditions throughout 2018 and ongoing concern over fodder there is stated O’Donnell “a real danger that this decline will accelerate considerably, as farmers off-load cows due to lack of money and fodder shortages. Add to this concern over the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and the implications that would have for our beef exports and you can start to appreciate the growing sense of panic that is gripping the industry.”

When assessing support measures for the suckler sector continued O’Donnell “the possibility of extending the BDGP was considered by our National Council, but was dismissed as this scheme is seen to complicated and not delivering financially. It would also require amendments to our Rural Development Program which would see long delays, with no guarantee of securing these amendments. For these reasons it was decided that securing exchequer funding for a National Scheme would provide farmers with the best outcome.”

He then added how “a National ‘Sustainable Suckler Cow Scheme, would on a budget of €120m, be in a position to provide immediate support to suckler cow farmers by providing supports of up to €3500. The scheme should be simple, easy to implement and easy to qualify for. The Scheme should not have any retention period. With this in mind we are recommending that the model used in the Old Sheep Grassland Scheme could be adopted and used. By following this model, we can target the money directly at the smaller suckler farmers who are the cornerstone of the industry and ensure the scheme is sustainable both from a budgetary and environmental viewpoint.”