Written answers

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Suckler Welfare Scheme

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois, Sinn Fein)
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439. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to amend the supports in relation to the suckler cow scheme to help alleviate the weakness in the sector. [9011/19]

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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The Beef Sector is an important element of the Irish rural economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland. To this effect, I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) a targeted support of €20 million for suckler farmers specifically aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, the BEEP will provide farm gate investment at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit. The pilot has been designed to be as straightforward as possible.

Additionally, the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. This scheme is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit within the herd. Also, it should be noted an additional €23 million was secured for the ANC scheme in 2019.

I am, however, very conscious that the beef sector is currently facing a difficult period. I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector. According to National Farm Survey data, suckler farmers receive support equivalent to approximately €500 per suckler cow on average.

I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020. In particular, I am committed to ensuring that suckler farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP. My view is that such payments should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability, and the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot is a positive step in that direction.

One of the unique strengths of the agri-food sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. It is crucial that we all continue to work together. At the last Beef Round table, I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency and to support the sector through examination of mechanisms to add value along the supply chain and increase the strength of all links in the supply chain, including Beef Producer Organisations.

Officials in my Department are currently engaging extensively with stakeholders in relation to Beef Producer Organisations, which have the potential to help strengthen the position of the primary producer in the supply chain.


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