Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

ICSA president says 'no' to new suckler scheme

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

But Minister Coveney hunting more money for beef programme

AS THE fall-out from the ending of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) continues, the Minister for Agriculture has raised the possibility of top-ups for participants in the new Beef Data Programme (BDP).

The replacement of the €25m SCWS with the €10m beef scheme or BDP has generated widespread anger, with at least one farm leader refusing to participate in what he labelled the new suckler cow 'lite' scheme.

The ICSA president, Gabriel Gilmartin, who farms 44 suckler cows at Ballintrillick, Co Sligo, said that the increased risk of inspections that participants in the scheme experienced wasn't worth the €400 a year he would now be able to get from the scheme.

The payment per cow under the BDP is half the €40 paid to farmers this year. In addition, the maximum number of cows that a farmer can claim the payment on is 20, effectively capping the payment at a maximum of €400 per farmer. For farmers such as Mr Gilmartin, the new scheme would reduce his payment by approximately €1,200 a year.

However, Minister Simon Coveney has floated the prospect of additional funding for participants in the new scheme. "There may well be money left over for participants in the Beef Data Programme because some farmers are likely to drop out of the scheme," said the Minister.

"We'll work out the best way to redistribute any spare funds. It could be €10 to €20 per cow for every additional cow, it could be limited to the next 20 cows, it all depends."

At the ICSA's AGM in Dublin last week, Minister Coveney admitted that farmers were angry about the cuts to the suckler scheme. "People are sore about the ending of the SCWS. But it was a five-year scheme and that had come to an end.

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"The Department of Finance wouldn't have approved another scheme and it is only that I was able to tap into the unspent money from the CAP that I was able to set up the Beef Data Programme," said Minister Coveney.

He added that he hopes to do something "more imaginative" for the sector when the next phase of CAP funding begins.

Research by the ICBF shows that that the increased flow of data created by the SCWS has the potential to put an extra €128m into suckler farmers' pockets over the next eight years.

While the new scheme will require farmers to submit information on breeding issues such as calving difficulty, much of the animal welfare requirements have been dropped.

When asked if it the new Beef Data Programme was worth participating in for the good of the sector, the ICSA's Mr Gilmartin said that he would still not be interested.

"I don't buy into that. All that's going to happen now is that less meals will be fed at weaning and there'll be more pneumonia and it'll damage our live exports," he said.

The IFA president, John Bryan, said it was too early for him to decide whether he would participate in the new scheme.

In contrast, the ICMSA president, John Comer said he would definitely continue participating in the schemes. "It's a poor relation to what was there before but it is better than nothing and from sitting on the board of the ICBF I realise the huge importance of the data that comes out of schemes like this," he said.

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