Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has called on the new government to provide for a financial support package for the suckler beef sector. He said that the decision to exclude suckler beef farmers from the €50 million Beef Exceptional Aid package has meant that this cohort of farmers have received no supports in recognition of the challenges they faced as a result of Covid-19.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said that the Minister’s stated intention that the €50million beef package would essentially ‘trickle down’ to suckler beef farmers in the autumn and will be of little comfort to farmers who are struggling right now.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The Minister’s response to my question on the rationale for excluding suckler farmers from the emergency beef package is premised on the assumption that existing government schemes, committed pre-Covid, would suffice for the suckler sector. This is at odds with the realities that suckler farmers are facing.
“The new government has an opportunity to correct this imbalance. They need to do so by providing a financial support for our suckler sector in recognition of the huge challenges that they are facing.
“Unfortunately, the Programme for Government itself gave little in the way of concrete proposals for supporting our Beef industry. It was light on detail in general and in particular on measures for supporting beef farmers.
“The government can and should go some way to addressing these concerns by immediately committing to providing a package for suckler farmers”.
Note to Editors: Text of Parliamentary Question submitted by Matt Carthy and Response by Agriculture Minister, Barry Cowen below:
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the reason he decided to exclude suckler beef farmers from the €50 million emergency beef fund; if he will publish the advice and analysis that led to this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The €50 million Beef Exceptional Aid package is targeted towards beef finishers in recognition of the fact that they have borne the most immediate and severe economic impact arising from the market disturbance arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting finishers will have a positive impact on suckling and store buying enterprises, as it will help to maintain the market into which these operators sell, primarily in the autumn.
The economic rationale which underpins the scheme will be published in due course in the notification to the EU Commission for inclusion of the measure under the COVID temporary state aid framework.
In terms of supports specifically for suckler farmers; in addition to the €300 million Beef Data and Genomics Programme, which is the core Rural Development Programme support targeted at suckler farmers, and other supports such as the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme which is very significant to suckler farm incomes, the 2020 Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Sucklers (BEEP-S) is targeted specifically at suckler farmers and aims to enhance the operational, economic and environmental efficiency of suckler enterprises.