More than €130,000 in taxpayer money was spent on the Beef Taskforce over the last two years, the Farming Independent has learned.
The multi-stakeholder group, established on foot of the intense beef blockades of 2019 and to monitor and implement the actions of the 2019 Beef Sector Agreement, was officially wound up last November.
A Freedom of Information request to the Department of Agriculture reveals that Taskforce expenditure consisted of two main items during its work over 11 meetings: a series of commissioned Grant Thornton reports into the beef sector and payment for chairman Michael Dowling.
The FOI response said the three market transparency studies were “a core remit of the Taskforce”. “The total cost of the studies was €118,167 inc vat,” it said.
Mr Dowling was paid for chairing meetings and conducting preparatory and follow-up meetings with Department officials.
It was also stated that the chairman conducted a number of bi-lateral meetings with the farming organisations, meat industry representatives and others who made the Taskforce membership.
The FOI response continued: “The (daily) rate paid to the chairman was in line with that prescribed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for and ex Secretary General or equivalent (Mr Dowling is a previous Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture).
“Mr Dowling received €13,949 for his work on the Taskforce.”
A key outworking of the Taskforce was an application for PGI status for ‘Irish Grass-Fed Beef’, which was submitted to the European Commission in November 2020, and will shortly be progressed to the next stage of the process.
A suckler brand development oversight group was also established, with Bord Bia allocating €6m over a three-year period.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has confirmed that a new strategic forum for the beef sector will be established.