Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Beef farmers are under tremendous pressure. Half of them are earning less than €10,000 a year and three quarters less than €20,000. In the past year alone they have seen prices go down by 20 or 25 cent a kilogram, or nearly €100 a head. There is phenomenal pressure, on top of which is Brexit which also exerts huge pressure. Beef farmers believe their needs are not being met. Will the Minister outline how he will address them?
I am fully committed to supporting the beef sector. I am conscious that 2018 was a difficult year for the suckler beef sector, particularly in terms of unprecedented weather events which resulted in increased input costs owing to fodder shortages. We must also acknowledge the exposure of the sector to Brexit impacts.
One of the unique strengths of the agrifood sector has been the shared vision in Food Wise 2025 for its sustainable development. I hope this positive engagement will continue. I have used the beef round table to highlight the need for stakeholders to recognise their interdependency and support the sector through an examination of mechanisms to add value along the supply chain and increase the strength of all links in the supply chain. For example, officials from my Department are engaging extensively with stakeholders in promoting the establishment of beef producer organisations.
In budget 2019 I secured €20 million for a new beef environmental efficiency pilot scheme targeted at suckler cow farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. I launched the scheme on 30 January. The scheme is open for applications until 22 February and I urge suckler cow farmers to apply for it. Further details are available on my Department's website.
My Department is examining all appropriate measures to support the different agrifood sectors, including the suckler beef sector, in preparation for the next iteration of the Common Agricultural Policy. I am committed to ensuring suckler cow farmers will continue to receive strong support under the CAP. My view is that such payments should support and encourage suckler cow farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability and the economic and environmental efficiency of their farming system.
The new beef environmental efficiency pilot scheme complements the existing beef data and genomics programme, BDGP, an agri-environmental measure which is specifically targeted at improving the genetic merit of the suckler cow herd which provides beef farmers with some €300 million in funding during the current rural development programme period. It is also envisaged that suckler cow farmers will be the primary beneficiaries of the €23 million ANC increase which I secured in budget 2019. Other supports available for suckler cow farmers under the rural development programme include GLAS, ANCs and knowledge transfer groups. Suckler cow farmers also benefit from the basic payment scheme and greening payments under Pillar 1 of the CAP. National farm survey data suggest suckler cow farmers receive support equivalent to approximately €500 per suckler cow on average, taking all of the schemes mentioned into account. I am strongly of the view that the current range of supports available to suckler cow farmers, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, is appropriate for the continued development of the sector.