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Fianna Fail rows back on commitment to abolish farmer levies to Bord Bia

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Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. Photo: PA

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. Photo: PA

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. Photo: PA

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has rowed back on previous commitments to abolish levies paid by farmers to Bord Bia.

Announcing additional funding of €4m for Bord Bia in Budget 2021, Minister McConalogue told the Farming Independent that while the levy paid by farmers is something he previously said he would examine, yesterday he stressed: “what I’ve always said is the absolute importance of funding Bord Bia and the really crucial role it plays.

"I think that is being reflected in the Budget this year in terms of the additional €4m which is being invested in it.

"And I think that work is more important than ever, given the challenges we face regarding Brexit and market diversification.

"We are absolutely committed to ensuring that it continues to be fully funded and that funding is developed to allow them to expand the work and expand markets,” he said.

“There is no plan to address the levy.”

Last year, during his time as opposition spokesperson on agriculture, McConalogue stated that he supported “abolishing the levy farmers pay to Bord Bia.

“In 2018, farmers paid close to €4m in levies to Bord Bia for cattle exported or slaughtered. Meanwhile, the exchequer contribution to the State Agency has been increased over the last three years to carve out new export markets, arising from Brexit.

“Given this, and as signal of solidarity with beef farmers, I will be supporting the policy to abolish this levy farmers pay on cattle and put this forward as party policy in the upcoming general election campaign,” he said at the time.

McConalogue maintained then that "a lot of the time farmers have been losing money after all the hard work they put into producing beef, yet they have still been expected to carry the burden of the levy and of financing Bord Bia.

"We believe the processors need to step up to the mark in relation to their contribution towards the marketing of our beef internationally.”

Bord Bia has previously refused to detail the level of payments and supports it receives from meat processors. When asked previously by the Farming Independent to provide a breakdown of industry payments for the years from 2016 to 2019, Bord Bia stated that "no single record" could provide "the extensive quantity of information requested".

The €4m increase in the Budget to Bord Bia will include €1m to be spent on the promotion of suckler beef.

However, a proposal by Bord Bia to establish a Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) based around grass-fed Irish beef has come under severe criticism from farming organisations who say it does not do enough to support suckler beef.

A meeting of the Beef Taskforce Group due to take place on Monday was postponed after it became apparent that all the farm organisations were not in support of the current PGI proposal.

The latest log-jam in the PGI saga relates to a dispute notice which was lodged with the Beef Taskforce by the INHFA because of what it claims has been the “non-delivery” by the body in developing a suckler brand. “We must now see a concrete suckler brand proposal on the table,” said INHFA president, Colm O’Donnell.

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