Ann Fitzgerald: The IFA cannot afford to dismiss the new Beef Plan Movement
'When two tribes go to war, they need to know what their beef is'
Just as the government would be ill advised to ignore the Peter Casey vote, the IFA cannot afford to dismiss the new Beef Plan Movement.
The organisers are well-intentioned and enthusiastic, and their public meetings are attracting a mix of those disillusioned with the beef sector, disaffected from other farm organisations, and young people.
This latter group is particularly significant, given the usual age profile at farm meetings. No doubt the use of social media as a communications tool is significant on this front.
The target is to get 40,000 farmers on board within six to eight months, while the admirable aims of the plan (86 points is far too many) include the delivery of a margin over production and the development of a brand for suckler-bred Irish beef akin to Kerrygold.
Many beef farmers will also identify with the day-to-day issues, such as carcase trim and the four movements Quality Assurance rule.
From the outside, it looks as though these kinds of issues could be readily addressed, if there was enough political pressure or the right political attitude to tackle them.
Something new always brings with it a sense of expectation and hope. Unfortunately, it's hard to see that (I hope I'm wrong) they have the wherewithal to tackle the major underlying issue in the sector: the imbalance of power between the processors and farmers.
The talk is of assembling an army but the main weapon in their arsenal seems to be the withholding of cattle. Factories are now finishing more cattle themselves.