There is unanimous support by Leitrim County Council for the ongoing campaign by farmers to receive a fair share of the profits being made from the sale of livestock.
Last Monday's meeting of the local authority heard a wide-ranging debate about farming in relation to the Beef Plan Movement as well as the broader Mercusor trade deal involving the importation of beef from South America.
Four councillors tabled motions in support of the current Beef Plan campaign.
Cllr Des Guckian proposed the council unanimously support the campaign in seeking to get for its members and all producers a much fairer percentage share of the income from the livestock they are producing.
“In particular, we want to see all thirteen of their key grievances, concerning policy and technical issues, addressed in full by the meat factories,” he said.
“Small farmers can't make a profit any more and they're going to be put out of business. The meat industry is dominated by the barons who hold the whip hand and impose all sorts of regulations on the producers. We as politicians cannot stand idly on the sideline, we must make a stand,” he said.
He proposed the motion be forwarded to the Minister for Agriculture and to all other councils seeking their full support.
Cllr Brendan Barry called for support for the campaign for a fair share of profits that are being made from beef and lamb sales and called on the Minister for Agriculture to “help free farmers from the beef barons' shackles of slavery.”
He said there is quite a lot of money in farming but the farmers are not getting their fair share of it.
He said farmers are not able to pay the bills yet one factory made a €3m pre-tax profit last year.
Cllr Paddy Farrell proposed the council would call on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, “to take some positive action to alleviate the crisis that is looming in the beef sector at the moment.”
Debating the issues, Cllr Gerry Dolan said it was sad to see farmers coming into the mart and nearly in tears wondering will they be able to pay the bills “and to think what's being made in the factories.”
Cllr Justin Warnock said the pickets are on the factories for a reason, the farmers are not making a living on it and their backs are against the wall. He said they should “stand shoulder to shoulder with them on the street.”
Cllr Enda Stenson said he was amazed that there was a round table discussion and the problem was money but the one thing they didn't discuss was money.
He suggested farmers set up a beef co-op that the farmers could sell into and take on the processors.
“Farmers are going to go against farmers soon because farmers are going to have to get rid of their cattle,” he said.
Cllr Barry said the Beef Plan Movement has applied for status to become a co-op organisation, once they have that they can then go and negotiate on price.
They could talk about the issues all day but what were they (council) going to do about it, asked Cllr Mary Bohan.
Cllr Barry proposed the council contact the main retailers in the county and ask them to say what their specification is and if they are forcing that on farmers. The proposal was seconded by Cllr Fallon.
Cllr Sean McGowan asked where the big farming organisations are in all this. He said the IFA has to stand up for the farmer and the council can show its solidarity with the farmers.
Cllr Guckian said it cannot be ignored. “The misbehaviour of the meat processors has to be exposed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cllr Paddy O'Rourke called for the council to call on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed and the Government to reject the Mercusor Trade Deal “in light of the threat that it poses to our main industry and more specifically to our beef industry which is already experiencing great difficulty in the marketplace with diminishing returns to the primary producer.”
“The Mercusor deal, coupled with the proposals coming from the National Climate Change Council which is proposing to terminate beef production via the suckler herd, has the potential to shut down rural Ireland, particularly the North West, where the land type doesn't lend itself to any other type of production,” Cllr O'Rourke said.
“This has the potential to wipe us out. They've taken our garda stations, our schools and our post offices. If this happens they might as well put a gate on the West of Ireland and forget about it,” he said.
Cllr Barry said everything in the deal is centred around the dairy industry and protecting them; they're forgetting about the weanling man producing top class sucklers.