Over 1,000 farmers attended a meeting, hosted by the Irish Farmers’ Association, in Claremorris on Tuesday, June 2, where the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney got a very strong message about the real concerns of farmers relating to the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme.
Bernard Donohue, the chairman of Roscommon IFA Livestock Committee, said that the scale of the turnout highlighted the genuine concerns about numerous aspects of the scheme. He said that there was a responsibility on the Minister to address the concerns expressed by suckler farmers and provide the necessary assurances and flexibilities to ensure the €52 million in funding is paid out annually to farmers.
Mr Donohue said that farmers remain concerned about the six-year rule and claw-backs, the level of genotyping, the requirement to reach four and five stars and the lack of flexibility in the scheme for farmers who want to progress and develop suckler cow numbers.
He said that the Minister needed to provide the necessary assurances and flexibilities within the scheme to resolve these issues.
On the six-year rule and claw-back, the Minister said this would only apply to farmers who decided to switch to another enterprise during the term of the Scheme. He acknowledged that mistakes had been made in the communication that was issued to farmers in the first place, from which much of farmers’ concerns arose.
He also recognised that a greater level of consultation should have taken place. Minister Coveney said the department was willing to look at individual cases if 2014 didn’t work for any farmer as a reference year and that he would establish a working group, as suggested by the IFA President, to look at all aspects of the scheme and review them on an ongoing basis.
He said that elements of the scheme were proving unattainable would have to be revisited. He said that the working group would have to iron out any difficulties that farmers were experiencing and make the Scheme workable.
IFA said that they lobbied Minister Coveney and the Government to deliver the €52 million funding for the sector and were determined that the full benefits would be paid out to suckler farmers by December.
In a statement released after the meeting, local Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said: “Now that the closing date for the Beef Geonomics Scheme has passed, I am again highlighting the many problems that farmers faced in connection with this scheme.
“The figures for those joining the scheme are nowhere near what was anticipated because of the problems involved, and there may be as many as 7,000 farmers less than was hoped. “It is envisaged that many of the farmers who have applied for the scheme will actually pull out because of fears that they have about parts of the scheme and the terms and conditions. “It would be in the interest of the Minister to devise a more workable scheme that would suit farners in the West of Ireland, where 80 per cent of the sucklers are based.”