Margaret Donnelly: 'Farmers need to come together to win this beef battle'

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Pictured at a protest outside the ABP Plant at Bandon Co Cork were members of the BEEF Plan movement Cork who are demanding better prices for beef farmers and intend to hold a week long protests at all ABP cork plants. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at a protest outside the ABP Plant at Bandon Co Cork were members of the BEEF Plan movement Cork who are demanding better prices for beef farmers and intend to hold a week long protests at all ABP cork plants. Picture Denis Boyle
Gardaí at a recent farmer protest. Picture Denis Boyle
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

When you see beef farmers protesting outside a meat factory on a bank holiday weekend Saturday night, you have to admire their commitment and resolve to better their situation.

But you also wonder what these protests can achieve? Beef farmers are coming under attack from all angles at the moment. Reduce cattle numbers say the climate action advocates. Stop eating meat altogether say vegans. And the Government seems, at best, disinterested in the plight of beef farmers.

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Mike Brady (see page 7) wonders if we're witnessing the end of traditional Irish beef farming?

Meanwhile, other farm organisations have so far declined to support the Beef Plan protests, at least in an official capacity, though some senior members have stood with protesters in recent days.

Last week IFA staged its own beef protest, while ignoring the beef farmers - many them IFA members - who were already standing at factory gates.

What's starting to become clear is that, as much as neither party, might want to hear it, the IFA and the Beef Plan Movement need each other.

The IFA is clearly in need of the energy and enthusiasm that has been evident at the protests across the country this week. Meanwhile, the Beef Plan lacks experience, political clout and media contacts - elements the IFA has in spades.

Beef farmers want and need their situation highlighted. But for beef farmers to 'win' this contest, the battle lines must be clearly drawn.

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Right now, the Beef Plan is not negotiating and it therefore runs the risk of over-promising and under-delivering.

Whether or not the Beef Plan's protests will lead to any financial gains and long-term better terms remains to be seen, but the morale of the ordinary beef farmer has been boosted over the past week.

But with the support of the entire farming sector, it would be far more realistic to achieve a positive outcome.

The farmers at the gates of meat factories deserve more than they're currently getting.

But who can deliver on this remains to be seen?

There is no simple solution to the crisis, but divided farmers won't achieve anything positive.

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