Beef bailout fund a 'bribe' to scale back the suckler sector, claim hill farmers

Colm O'Donnell, INHFA chairman at a previous protest outside Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Michael McLaughlin
Colm O'Donnell, INHFA chairman at a previous protest outside Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Michael McLaughlin
INHFA President Colm O'Donnell. Photo Brian Farrell
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The EU Commission has been accused of targeting the suckler sector in the conditions attached to the €100m Brexit support package for the Irish beef industry.

The INHFA claims that there is a clear effort to get small-scale suckler farmers to exit beef production as part of the conditionality around the support measures.

A draft document from the Commission states that the measures taken by Ireland to qualify for the funding package "shall be aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector to protect its long-term viability".

The INHFA maintain that the clear implication of the EU conditionality was that a major reduction in the Irish suckler herd was being sought.

"It is shameful that an Irish commissioner and his team of officials would put forward a proposal that targets our suckler farmers in the poorer regions who are supplying the most public goods in terms of biodiversity and nature conservation and giving vital support to our local co-ops and feed merchants,"said INHFA president Colm O'Donnell.

'Orchestrated' The INHFA likened the proposed aid package to a "bribe to give up our suckler industry" and warned that small farmers on poorer ground were the primary targets of the measure.

This view was shared by MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. He said there was a "carefully orchestrated attempt at both national and EU level to undermine the very rationale of maintaining the suckler herd".

"At national level the aim is to reduce the suckler herd to facilitate dairy expansion," Mr Flanagan stated.

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At European level the aim is to protect continental domestic meat markets from being flooded by Irish beef displaced from the British market in the event of Brexit, he added.

Meanwhile, ICOS has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to ensure that the Brexit aid package is not paid to factory-owned feedlots and that compensation is limited to 500 head.

In an effort to protect farmers who traded through the marts, ICOS has proposed a graduated system of compensation for the producer and purchaser of animals extending over a 10-week period pre-slaughter.

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