Dairy expansion isn't the problem - the unfair and defective beef price grid is
More subsidies for sucklers won't compensate for the hammering they,re taking on price, argues ICMSA's Pat McCormack
A commentator recently wrote in the Farming Independent that the CAP promises a fair standard of living for all farmers - not just dairy farmers. I agree and have never said otherwise.
ICMSA takes its subtitle 'The Family Farm Organisation' seriously and this means that our starting point for any analysis is the attainment of a fair standard of living for all farmers.
CAP has demonstrably failed to deliver this and our politicians have, in turn, shamefully avoided addressing that first failure. I'm also certain that pitching the different farming sectors against each other in a fight over a dwindling pot serves no-one, except the EU and the politicians whose inaction and failure is thereby disguised.
Nor do I accept the idea that seems to be gaining ground that views dairy farming as a 'handy number'; like all farming, dairying is hard work and every cent earned is hard earned. It is very far from 'handy' or the 'white gold' of headlines.
We have seen articles about how dairy farmers are flooding the EU market with poor quality beef. Dairy beef production traditionally accounted for approximately 50pc of Irish production and this is growing since the abolition of quotas, as was predicted and expected.
Since abolition, farmers are making their choices in terms of enterprise and, for some, that choice is dairying. But is this not individuals exercising the freedom to farm that we all insisted upon?
Many dairy farmers produce excellent quality beef that meets market requirements but, like the suckler farmers, they are not getting paid enough for it. Anyone who really wants to understand the problems undermining the suckler sector would be well advised to start with the current grid.
From the first day it was unveiled, ICMSA said the grid was defective and unfair. Nine years of market changes later and the grid is even less fit-for-purpose than it was then. The mystery of who gets a quality assurance bonus and who doesn't illustrates perfectly why farmers have lost confidence in the grid.