The €100m beef compensation package was up for some lively discussion among beef farmers at a meeting in Roscommon town on Friday night. The meeting was organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) as part of a series of nationwide events on the elusive package.

“If we want the maximum price for our weanlings we need those beef finishers back around the ring,” IFA livestock chairman Angus Woods stated.

He said the IFA is pushing for a retrospective fund to aid finishers who lost money: “We want farmers who finished the cattle and invested money to be looked after and it needs to be targeted. The losses from cattle killed in April were greater than those slaughtered in September.”

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Prime cattle

He also clarified what type of animals the IFA want to include in the aid package: “We want prime cattle covered which includes steers, heifers, and young bulls and there should be no limit on age as a lot of animals could not be killed on time and went overage during the winter.”

Woods also argued that cattle sold through the mart should be covered to safeguard farmer’s confidence trading in livestock marts. He said the Department of Agriculture would have all the required data on the Animal, Identification and Movement System (AIMS) so it should not be too complicated.

The issue of cull cows was raised by some finishers on the night who wondered why they should not be included in the package. Woods said they included cull cows in the original submission which made up the €100m request but believes now the focus should be on “live cows rather than cull cows”.

Sucklers

One suckler farmer asked why the IFA did not ask for sucklers to be included in the original submission. In response Woods said that they were trying to show market disturbance in the beef sector.

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“We had to stick to the numbers and show the difference in price due to Brexit, we are acutely aware of the pressure on the suckler herd and we are absolutely opposed to any restructuring of the suckler herd in the scheme,” Woods outlined.

John Williams a suckler farmer from Co Sligo said that he would be quite happy for the beef finishers to get all the money once they give more for weanlings later on.

IFA levy

A Roscommon suckler farmer asked why there was a sign in the mart asking farmers to sign a form if they do not want the levy to be taken from their mart cheques. The farmer argued that if he had already asked for the payment to be stopped why should he have to do it again.

The IFA’s general secretary Damian McDonald responded: “The association carried out a full review headed up by Teddy Cashman and it was agreed that a levy and membership model was the best way to fund the association.

“The IFA is depending on farmers for funding but it is definitely value for money. We have an income of approximately €10m while Teagasc receive up to €100m from Government. If we are going to fight the many layers of bureaucracy and different departments we need to be properly resourced to do that.

“For example, we have an office in Brussels, if we didn’t we would be wiped out. Do you want a well-funded organisation that is independently funded?”

Funding

He said the IFA could look to the Government for funding and he said there was no doubt they would get it.

However, he warned: “But we would end up beholden to them. Farmers at the very least should contribute money to the organisation to fund the farmers who do put in their time.”

Angus Woods backed up McDonald on the point of a well-funded organisation: “Recently we got word that there was an important meeting on the Mercosur deal in Buenos Aires. I called Damian and said we need to go to this, the only question he asked was - is it the right thing to do? It turned out we did help stall progress at the meeting and the South Americans accused us of harassment.”

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