Suckler farmers tackle Coveney over welfare axe

Declan O'Brien and Martin Ryan

The abolition of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) looks set to dominate exchanges when Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, attends today's IFA AGM.

The suckler scheme was abolished in the Budget and replaced with the new Beef Data Transfer Scheme (BDTS).

Payments under the new scheme are limited to €20 per cow to a maximum of 20 cows or €400 per farmer in total.

In an interview last week Mr Coveney said the SCWS had been "a success" but he strongly defended his decision to close it down.


The minister insisted that the overall spend on the suckler sector this year would still top €25m, close to that available under the SCWS.

However, the farm organisations have accused the minister of playing with figures by including payments due under last year's SCWS in the overall 2013 spend.

They pointed out that the total budget for the new BDTS was restricted to just €10-12m.

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Henry Burns, the IFA's livestock committee chairman, said it was not credible for Mr Coveney to claim he was "fully supportive" of the suckler sector or that the SCWS was a "success" and then to shut the scheme down.

"If the minister is still making €25m available annually for sucklers and he really believes that the SCWS was such a success, he might explain to the AGM why he abolished it in the Budget," Mr Burns said.

"Minister Coveney has claimed people should 'not have been surprised at the decision' he took.

"Not alone are the country's 60,000 suckler farmers surprised, they are shocked and angry at the way the minister targeted the low-income drystock sector with his cuts to the farm schemes," Mr Burns added.

Meanwhile, proposed changes to the IFA's election procedures look increasingly unlikely to be in place in time for the association's presidential ballot this December.

The IFA's national returning officer, JJ Kavanagh, has confirmed that the proposed changes cannot be endorsed at the organisation's AGM today due to delays at national council level.

The proposals include replacing regional vice-presidents with four provincial chairmen; the removal of voting rights from ordinary members for posts such as regional chairmen; increasing the voting strength of larger branches in the presidential elections; and imposing a moratorium on recruitment during the weeks prior to the election.

"We had intended having a full discussion at last December's national council meeting and bringing the changes to the AGM for approval, but due to the CAP protest it had to be deferred," Mr Kavanagh said.

But he insisted the proposals have not been scrapped or dropped and will be debated again later this year.

Indo Farming

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