Unacceptable if beef package directed at 'handful of factory agents' - Marts

Cattle in a mart
Cattle in a mart
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

ICOS Marts Committee have warned that if a new €50m beef support package announced by EU Commissioner Phil Hogan amounts to slaughter only assistance it could be directed to a handful of factory agents.

The committee is seeking an immediate meeting with Minister Creed and his officials to discuss the proposed new compensation package for beef farmers.

ICOS wants the Minister to ensure that the scheme is implemented equitably to include provision for farmers who traded animals through livestock marts.

Ray Doyle, Livestock and Environmental Services Executive of ICOS said, “The package will be provided through an implementing regulation from DG AGRI, which is expected to be quite short and will potentially be based on the compensation package given specifically to Finnish dairy farmers directly following the Russian import ban.

"It will therefore be nearly entirely up to the Department of Agriculture to decide how the package is distributed, with little prescription from DG AGRI.”

He said that undoubtedly beef finishers have had a disastrous 2018 and 2019 but so too did sellers of weanlings, forward stores and cull cows.

" It will not be acceptable that this compensation could be directed to a handful of factory agents if this scheme amounts to slaughter only assistance.

“With the Animal Identification and Movement system it will be possible to ascertain the ownership and trading history of animals before they have been presented for slaughter.

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While the funds are finite, their distribution must be fair to all producers in the beef chain. That is why we are seeking a meeting with the Minister,” he said.

It comes as the distribution of a new aid package for beef farmers has been greeted by some with concerns raised that factory owned feedlots may have access to the supports.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association are insisting that any support measure must include the suckler sector.

The €50m fund allows the Irish Government the possibility to match this fund, which would bring the total amount of financial support for Irish beef farmers to €100m.

INHFA President Colm O’Donnell said while the main focus over the last number of months stated O’Donnell “has been on losses incurred by beef finishers, suckler farmers selling through the marts have also experienced major losses which needs to be recognised and included in this support fund.”

Clearly, he continued “beef finishers who have been impacted will need to be supported and we have no problem with this, however, we also need to consider the fact that 20pc of finished stock comes from factory controlled feed-lots which are seen by many as a mechanism to deflate the price.”

Details of how beef farmers will receive the money or its distribution have yet to be announced. It is not clear whether beef processors may receive any of the funds.

There is speculation that the money could be distributed based on cattle slaughter numbers from late last year, with farmers and possibly feed lots, who slaughtered large numbers of cattle in these months receiving the most money in this scenario. Another possibility is that, similar to the EU dairy aid package, when €26.4m was allocated to dairy farmers in the form of flat payments of just under €1,400 per farmer.

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