Angry farmers pack IFA meeting on new Scheme

Eddie Downey, IFA National President addresses the crowd at the Leitrim IFA AGM in the Lough Allen Hotel, Drumshanbo recently.
There was barely standing room in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon last Friday night when over 600 farmers from across the region voiced their anger at the ‘unreasonable’ criteria put in place on the new Beef Data and Genomics Scheme recently announced by the Minister for Agriculture.

There was barely standing room in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon last Friday night when over 600 farmers from across the region voiced their anger at the ‘unreasonable’ criteria put in place on the new Beef Data and Genomics Scheme recently announced by the Minister for Agriculture.

IFA has raised serious concerns with the Minister and the Department over aspects of the new scheme and IFA National Livestock Chairperson, Henry Burns, called for immediate action to address concerns over the six year rule noting that it is frightening farmers from getting involved.

He described the requirement that 50 percent of breeding female animals had to be 4 of 5 star by 2020 as an unnecessary target and requested this be adjusted to include 3, 4 or 5 star animals and to ensure that calves, weanlings, replacements and cows are all included in the calculation.

“The Department requirement on farmers who are purchasing a bull that they must buy a 4 or 5 star bull after January 2017 and have a 4 or 5 star bull by 2020 is a costly requirement, particular for small suckler farmers, “ he said calling for this to be re-examined and adjusted to take account of herd size and the financial ability of farmers to meet such.

The IFA Chairperson also raised question on the issue of genomic testing and said IFA had made it clear to the Minister the 60 percent requirement is excessive and eroding the value of the €100/€80 per cow.

“Genomic testing should be based on 15% of the herd as was the case in 2015,” he said and he stressed that per hectare payment rates should be the equivalent of €100 per cow on the first 10 cows and not the proposed €95, with €80 per cow on the remainder in the herd.

“The inflexible rule demanding full claw back of payments if applicants reduce the “maximum payable area” by more than 20% in any year must be dropped, he added.

Mr Burns emphasised the need for farmers to ensure they applied for the new scheme however, noting that it was easier to drop out after application, ”there is no chance to apply once the scheme is closed.”

However there was less agreement from the floor with one farmer’s call for everyone to boycott the scheme drawing shouts of agreement and applause.

Farmers and local IFA representatives said they were also afraid that the huge inroads and improvements achieved by over 30 years of planned breeding in the suckler herd, would be lost and expressed a fear that suckler farmers would be forced to source their replacement stock under the scheme from “an expanding dairy herd”.

The fact that 2014 was the chosen reference year - a year which followed a fodder shortage and included the beef crisis - was also contentious and farmers objected to the high star replacement requirements saying they were unrealistic for small suckler herds.

Local Fine Gael Deputy, John Perry, offered to facilitate a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture and IFA representatives and fellow TDs Michael Fitzmaurice (IND); Michael Colreavy (SF); James Bannon (FG), Leitrim County Councillor, Martin Kenny (SF) and Senator Marc MacSharry offered their support in the campaign to seek clarity and reform of the scheme.

Connacht IFA Regional Chairperson, Tom Turley stressed that further meetings had been organised around the country on this issued and he vowed that IFA “are going to drive this home”.

“We want the money and we need the money and we need to get this scheme changed,” he concluded.