Minister's warning over dairy 'excitement'
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has expressed concern that the beef sector could become a by-product of the dairy sector as farmers got "carried away" in all the excitement about expansion in dairy.
He was addressing a full attendance at the Agricultural Science Association's (ASA) annual conference in Maynooth last week.
"I am very protective of the suckler herd that we've got here and you will see me trying to support schemes that promote this," Mr Coveney said.
One of the initiatives that the minister is planning is a replication of the highly successful dairy discussion group programme, where dairy farmers are paid €1,000 a year for attending a minimum number of discussion group events.
"I want to replicate this in the beef sector," he added.
"The only problem is that we've 80,000 beef farmers compared to just 17,000 dairy farmers, which has obvious budgetary implications.
"That's why I'm going to be looking to the beef industry for support. I'll be making no apologies for leaning on big food businesses because they are doing very well at the moment."
In a wide-ranging address, the minister also indicated that his Department was about to roll out initiatives to encourage more farm families come together to form partnerships, companies and mini- cooperatives.