Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

ICMSA furious at Teagasc grid call

Show cost-neutral evidence or withdraw claim demands Cahill

Martin Ryan

A major row has erupted between the ICMSA and Teagasc after an assertion by the State body that the Quality Payment System (QPS) for cattle was cost-neutral.

Teagasc officials told a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Food last month that the QPS was "cost-neutral or better".

ICMSA president Jackie Cahill has called on Teagasc to have the record of the Oireachtas committee amended and the assertion withdrawn unless factual figures to support the claim could be produced.

Mr Cahill accused the farm advisory body of drawing "a conclusion for which there is no basis in analysis or fact".

He said support documentation, which Teagasc provided to the ICMSA explaining their submission to the Oireachtas committee, did not prove the contention that the QPS was cost-neutral.

He accused Teagasc of presenting a "half-baked mixture of wishful thinking and baseless opinion" on the QPS which was "totally unacceptable" from a State-supported body that was statutorily bound to be objective.

When challenged by the ICMSA, Teagasc failed to provide any aggregate figures on the impact of the new payment system.

However, a spokesman for the State research body confirmed the organisation was standing behind the statements made to the Oireachtas committee on March 3.

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Teagasc did not have an audit role in the QPS, the spokesman added.

He said the primary function of the advisory body regarding the QPS was the assessment of carcass meat yield and advice to producers on the breeding and feeding of beef animals to maximise their return under the new payment system.

In response to the ICMSA challenge, Teagasc stated that the organisation "had done some analysis of prices, but we are not auditors and only an audit would produce accurate answers".

Teagasc confirmed that only steers were assessed in their review of the payment system and the pre-QPS prices used were based on one week last year.

However, in response to questions from the members of the Oireachtas committee, Teagasc officials said "approximately 60pc of stock would be better off on the grid".

"I am confident it [the grid] is cost-neutral or better for farmers," one Teagasc official claimed.

Mr Cahill confirmed that a letter had been sent to the chairman of Teagasc calling for the formal withdrawal of the statement unless it could be substantiated by impartial analysis.

"Teagasc has an obligation to represent farmers fairly and accurately. Support the statement with substantial impartial analysis or withdraw it. If they have it, let's see it," he said.

Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle has offered to meet the ICMSA to discuss the matter further.

Irish Independent