Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Viewpoint: Beef meetings vital to halt exodus from beef gemonics

Denis Naughten TD
Denis Naughten TD
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Star-gazing is not something that many beef farmers could be accused of up to now. But that was before the Department of Agriculture sent out star ratings to 29,000 suckler farmers over the last month.

Many are angry or mystified with the low ranking some of their most prized breeding stock. Minister Coveney's front-line troops will get a good earful about this and other issues over the coming weeks when they finally tackle the festering negativity about the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP).

It's a pity that we had to wait five months after the opening of the scheme for these meetings to happen. The majority in the beef sector, from farmers up to processors, really want to see a scheme like this up and running. It has the potential to be one of the best schemes in this current Rural Development Programme.

A dry-run at Elphin mart last week revealled just how much the Department is prepared to do to facilitate farmers in fully participating. This is evidenced by the fact that 95pc of the 1,000 farmers that queried their base year figures have won their appeals.

Let's hope that this engagement by the Department is not too little too late.

Some of the country's top beef farmers such as Robin Talbot have outlined on these pages why they are prepared to forego thousands in additional income because of what they see as deal-breakers in the scheme's rules.

At the same meeting in Elphin, farmers heard how 1,400 of their number have already opted to leave the scheme. This is double the figure given to Independent TD Denis Naughten only eight working days previous, belying a shocking increase in the rate of exit by farmers from the scheme before it ever gets going.

As Deputy Naughten rightly points out, the Department has set itself a sizeable challenge in attempting to change a long established culture of beef breeding in the space of six years, when the same exercise took well over a decade to achieve in dairying.

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After fighting so hard for schemes specifically tailored to the sector, it would reflect badly on not only the Department, but also the farming organisations that lobbied for beef payments, if millions were left unclaimed from the €300m that has been allocated to the BDGP.

While the top mandarins' focus over the next seven days will be Minister Noonan's Budget next Tuesday, it's important for the credibility of future pitches for Exchequer funding for farmer schemes that the beef sector can prove that it has the ability to roll out schemes as they are delivered.

That is why the meetings starting in Killarney next Monday, followed by Cork, Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Limerick, Cavan, and Donegal are vital diary dates for all prospective participants.

Indo Farming