Thursday 29 September 2016

Farmers demand genomic overhaul

Martin Ryan and Declan O'Brien

Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30

Patrick Kent
Patrick Kent

Pressure is mounting on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to agree major changes to the Beef Data Geonomics Programme (BDGP).

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The current scheme proposals have met with widespread opposition from farmers at public meetings held over the last 10 days.

The IFA upped the pressure on Minister Coveney yesterday with its president, Eddie Downey, seeking an urgent meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture to address farmer concerns.

Opposition to the €52m programme centre on the requirement that farmers sign up for the full six-year timeframe of the initiative, as well as the possible clawback of payments to those who leave the programme or do not comply with guidelines.

"The IFA has also raised issues on the 2014 reference year, the replacement requirement, the level of genotyping, stocking rate and penalties. We are requesting the Oireachtas Committee to arrange a meeting this week to discuss these issues," Mr Downey said.

He pointed out that thousands of farmers had attended meetings across the country in the last week with Oireachtas members, and it was very clear there was a lot of unrest and confusion on many aspects of the scheme.

However, Mr Downey accepted that the BDGP was an important initiative that would help suckler farmers remain viable.

More than 700 farmers expressed "disappointment" with the scheme at an IFA meeting in Co Galway and a turnout in excess of 500 farmers in Co Roscommon also gave the programme the thumbs down.

Meanwhile, at an ICSA meeting at Athlone on Friday night last, politicians in the region were unhappy with the requirements of the programme.

Department of Agriculture officials were strongly criticised at information meetings in Tuam, Kilkenny and Enniscorthy recently, while there has been calls for a campaign to lobby rural TDs on the issue.

Last week Minister Coveney moved to allay some of the fears expressed over penalties with a range of clarifications.

He pointed out that there was no question of payments being clawed back for "minor non-compliances."

The minster said full clawback would only apply where an individual withdrew from the scheme or was disqualified.

However, ICSA president Patrick Kent said the organisation could not accept a situation where farmers that withdrew from the scheme would have to repay all BDGP monies received. He said farmers should only be penalised for deliberate omissions or breaches of the scheme rules.

He also claimed the requirement for 50pc of the herd to be four or five-star on the replacement index was unwarranted.

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