Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Funding crisis for ICBF as farmers opt out of tag levy

Image: Getty Images.
Image: Getty Images.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) is facing a funding crisis as farmers opt out of the tag levy in their droves.

Initial reports on tag orders over the last month show that nearly half of all farmers have opted not to pay the 38c/tag levy.

While ICBF could not confirm the exact number, chairman Michael Doran admitted that the development had the potential to trigger a funding crisis.

“We haven’t faced anything like this since the IBR outbreak in Tully,” he said. “We’ve no confirmation of the numbers involved yet, but any fall-off in funding is a big amount.”

The change came in the last month when the new tag tender approved multiple suppliers. At the same time, tag suppliers revamped their application forms to allow farmers to opt out of the ICBF levy for the first time.

The levy has generated €850,000 annually for the body responsible for rolling out national schemes such as the Beef Genomics Data Programme.

“I’m concerned about the implications for the key services that ICBF delivers for farmers,” said ICBF chirman Michael Doran.

The organisation, which employs 50 staff from its base in Bandon, Cork, is reponsible for progeny testing bulls at its Tully facility in Kildare, the G€n€ Ireland programme which ensures a constant stream of top Irish young bulls are tested in across dairy herds every year.

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 In addition, it processes huge amounts of data from milk recording and AI companies, as well as running the HerdPlus facility. However, it is its role in the rollout of the EBI for the dairy herd and the Breeding Index for the beef herd that is probably ICBF’s biggest contribution to the livestock sector.

Experts maintain that the genetic advances that have come on the back of these indexes have put hundreds of millions of euro into farmers’ pockets. But with nearly half of farmers choosing to opt out of the tag levy, fears are growing that the remaining payers will follow suit, similar to what happened to the doomed water charges here.

“That’s the big fear, and that’s why I think a statutory levy is the way to go,” said Mr Doran.

 “It was the fairest way to spread the cost among farmers, and any increase in AI or milk recording fees have been flatly rejected in the meetings that we’ve already had on this issue.

“The board meets this Thursday when we’ll look at all the options, but I think the Department has to step in and help,” he said.

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