INHFA Launch 10 point plan for suckler sector

A 10 point plan launched by the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association on Thursday has as one of its main points called for the decoupling of naturally reared suckler beef from dairy produced beef. National President Colm O’Donnell stated “how dairy produced beef continues to be subsidised by our naturally reared suckler beef to the detriment of suckler farmers and this has to end. The rebranding of this suckler beef should he continued “recognise the unique farming system that prioritises quality over quantity, an animal reared in nature by their mother and produced with a low or carbon neutral footprint.”

O’Donnell then outlined how the organisation is currently looking at the possibility of special European status for this beef under the Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) status which he stated “would give it a major marketing advantage in mainland Europe and attract a much higher price.”

In addition to the rebranding of our suckler beef the organisation stated how they are also looking at the “potential to develop and supply the market from a lighter carcass and a younger animal naturally reared by their mother. This they maintain would reduce the overall feeding requirements and help to reduce Green House Gas emissions.”

In staying with their proposals on recognising the importance of our extensive farming systems with their lower carbon footprint the organisation called for significant changes on the nitrates derogation’s. Currently there 6,891 farmers availing of a nitrates derogation on a land base of 445,200ha with a further 7,000 farmers availing of the option to export slurry off their farm.

This stated the INHFA President “undermines the objectives outlined in the new CAP Program which will see Greening being replaced by a more demanding eco-scheme.The Basic Payment Scheme being replaced by the Basic Income for Sustainability (BISS) with the focus being on helping farmers become sustainable.” This he continued “does raise questions for these very intensive farmers availing of these derogations or those exporting their slurry.” The INHFA are now calling for these farmers to be given the choice between reducing their stocking rate and holding onto their BISS and Pillar 1 Payments or continuing with their current stocking rates which necessitates nitrates derogations and losing their BISS and all Pillar 1 payments.

In the event of farmers choosing to forego their CAP payments then stated O’Donnell a central fund could be set up to redistribute these payments.” The fund he maintained “could be as high as €200m if most of these two groups decided to maintain their current stocking density and not cut back. This fund would provide with a number of options such as

• An immediate top-up of €40 on all other hectares of land

• A front-loaded payment of up to €150 on the first 10ha for all remaining farmers.

• A coupled support for both suckler cows and sheep paying up to €150 on all cows and €30 on all ewes.

In relation to other aspects of the 10 point plan the organisation is calling for

• The abolition of the 4 movement rule

• An improved live export market supported by the State to also include the establishment of an association by live
exporters to represent their interests.

• The vetoing by our Government of the Mercosur Trade deal which proposes to introduce 99,000t of prime beef cuts into
the EU market.

• Ensuring suckler farmers are included in any payment from the EU temporary Exceptional Adjustment Aid package as a
result of market disturbance associated with the uncertainty around Brexit.

• A Beef Cow/Calf Health Plan similar to the weanling welfare scheme available to all suckler farmers especially those not in
the BDGP or BEEP. The scheme will have an option of measures with a front-loaded payment model of €200 on
the first 10 cows and a degressive payment on the next 15 cows.

• Targeted Biodiversity grazing measure to be paid as part of an Agri-environmental scheme in the new CAP. This should
pay up to €200 per livestock unit.

O’Donnell concluded by emphasising how support for our suckler farmers which contributes to the huge amount of €2.9bn and creates 52,000 full time jobs is vital support to our struggling rural economy.