Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

IFA members seek grid system audit

Martin Ryan

An independent audit of the quality payment system (QPS) for cattle has been sought by leading members of the IFA.

The IFA national livestock committee endorsed the grid, with most of its members in support of the system after what was said to be a "lively" meeting.

However, a member of the IFA's national council has called for an independent assessment of QPS to establish its impact on cattle prices and farmer returns.

Limerick IFA chairman Eddie Scanlan received unanimous backing from his county executive when he proposed at a meeting last week that the grid be independently audited.

Mr Scanlan's proposal was supported by Noel Woulfe of the IFA national livestock committee, who said that farmers were "completely dissatisfied" with the new system.

"Farmers feel that they are being done by this grid. We need independent analysis. If it is not price neutral it must get the boot," Mr Scanlan said.

Mr Woulfe said strong opposition to the grid was voiced at a meeting of the IFA national livestock committee attended by IFA president John Bryan, association chief executive Pat Smith, and the executive secretary of the livestock committee, Kevin Kinsella.

"In the end it was decided to stick with the grid, and try to get the base price increased, but we have IFA AGMs around the country calling to get rid of it because farmers have no confidence in it -- they are not happy with it," Mr Woulfe said.

Also Read

"The belief is that the factories have done well out of it. I know that the three main groups [of processors] badgered the IFA to get this through -- they almost sat on the steps at Bluebell until it was agreed," he added.

Meanwhile, the ICMSA has labelled the grid an "abject failure" and again called for the system to be withdrawn.

ICMSA president Jackie Cahill said that any attempt to "tweak" the new grid was doomed to fail.

"Energies should now go to a fundamental redesign and the restoration of farmer credibility and confidence. The sooner that starts, the sooner the present chaos will end," Mr Cahill said.

He said the grid had now run a trial period of nearly eight weeks and farmers had returned their verdict.

"They're not having it. They won't accept it. They feel they are being very hard done by yet again -- and they're completely right on all those counts," Mr Cahill said.

However, Meat Industry Ireland's Cormac Healy rejected the ICMSA's criticism, saying confusing the QPS with weak market prices is misleading.

"The grid is working well, with more than 80pc of steers and 75pc of heifers falling into the desired fat cover, and therefore not subject to penalties," Mr Healy claimed.

"The new QPS reflects the requirements of the marketplace and, at last, gives clear market signals to farmers, something which has long been demanded of processors."

He rejected suggestions that the grid is over-complicated, pointing out that 70pc of cattle fall into just nine of the 60 grid segments.

Mr Healy maintained that the decision to break conformation and fat scores into sub-classes (+, =, - etc) was based on good practice recommended by Teagasc and was requested by both producer representatives and the Department of Agriculture.

Mr Healy added that the use of grade sub-classes meant that improving cattle quality is more achievable for farmers.

Irish Independent