Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Beef schemes 'are an insult', says new group

Beef Plan group holds its first meeting as membership soars

Some 540 farmers attended the group's first meeting in Roscommon Mart last Wednesday. Stock photo.
Some 540 farmers attended the group's first meeting in Roscommon Mart last Wednesday. Stock photo.
Picture: Teagasc
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Around 1,000 new members a week are joining the new Beef Plan 2018-2025 Group, founding member Eamon Corley has told the Farming Independent.

Some 540 farmers attended the group's first meeting in Roscommon Mart last Wednesday where many farmers voiced their concerns over the BDGP and new BEEP schemes.

"Farmers felt the BDGP was an insult to them. Breed societies are against it and we did a show of hands of the 540 farmers in the room asking, did they support the scheme, and not one hand went up," Mr Corley said.

"The BEEP scheme is also an insult. One farmer made a point that an AI service on a suckler cow costs €35 and scanning costs €5 so it doesn't pay the farmer. Under that scheme they also have to be weighed twice which means factories would get data on the animal and only use it against the farmer later on."

Mr Corley said the group would consider the suggestion of a small shop owner from Castlerea who said at the meeting that the group should go to the five main supermarkets and ask them if they were willing to pay them the cost of production plus a margin, which is one of the demands set out in group's 86-point plan.

"If one steps forward, we will spread the word and follow this supermarket. This could have a real influence and will help farmers get paid for the work that they do.

"Retailers spend €5m a week on advertising, if the consumer knew that the farmer wasn't getting a fair return, they wouldn't be happy," Mr Corley said.

However, since 90pc of Irish beef is exported, the impact of such a measure could be minimal.

Also Read

Mr Corley said that membership of the group has grown to 5,000 members and once it reaches its target of 40,000, it will then go to the factories with its demands.

"We are getting about 1,000 new members a week. We will try our best to work together and will send our demands to the factories that we get cost of production plus margin," he said. "We also want to see changes to grading and fat scoring and changes to supervision on the kill floor. We'd like to have farmers trained to be able to supervise trimming of carcasses and grading. It's important for us farmers as we feel we have been short-changed for too long.

"There has never been a plan for beef, no one organisation has actually done that. We are completely voluntary and not getting paid. Other farm organisations haven't delivered."

Sense of hope

Head of Meat Industry Ireland Cormac Healy said the "carcase grading regime in Ireland is one of the most comprehensive and advanced of any country in the world".

"While some plants do have viewing galleries for farmer suppliers or other visitors, access to the actual food production area is a matter for individual processing plants," he added. "However, it is difficult to justify the introduction of an additional layer of inexperienced external observers of carcase dressing or trim given the challenges of food safety, health and safety, insurance, etc."

Mr Corley said that while many farmers came to the meeting in despair, they left with a sense of hope.

"Before the meeting started, we watched farmers come in and they looked sad and in despair. A minute's silence was then held for farmers who committed suicide which I think was the right thing to do because all the farmers there know someone who has died by suicide," he said.

"Suckler farming is such an important part of life in the west of Ireland. They take pride in it but there is genuine hurt there now. Many can't send children to college where they would have been able to a few years ago. After the frank hour -and-a-half discussion though, many left thanking us and their chests were out."

The next meeting is due to take place tomorrow at the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co Mayo at 8.30pm.

Indo Farming