23rd September 2014
The ICSA campaign to sign farmers who are prepared to take the ultimate step in withdrawing co-operation from the Quality Assurance scheme has got off to a flying start with confirmation that 1,000 farmers have already signed up. The campaign is built around the slogan “No fair play for farmers- no quality assurance for factories”.
ICSA has instigated the campaign as a response to the scandal that only one in four cattle are getting a quality assured bonus even though 90% of all cattle going into meat plants are quality assured. Meanwhile, Bord Bia has confirmed that all of the meat from these cattle is eligible to use the Bord Bia Quality Assured label even though most of them are not getting the bonus. According to ICSA president Patrick Kent, “All kinds of spurious reasons such as the 30 months limit, number of movements and residency period, and conformation grades are used to deny farmers bonuses even though they have gone further to deliver quality assurance.”
ICSA is also adamant that there must be proper negotiations around weight and age limits for suckler bull beef. The chairman of the ICSA suckler committee Dermot Kelleher said, “Unless we have markets for heavier carcases from continental bulls we have no business staying in sucklers.”
ICSA is hoping for widespread support from the marts because the factories have manipulated the residency and movement conditions to undermine the trade for heavy cattle in the marts.
The campaign will now move to centre stage at this week’s National Ploughing Championships and ICSA is urging all farmers to come to the ICSA stand to support the strategy. ICSA is also lobbying for a regulator to be set up by the Government with a view to examining unfair practices such as control of feedlots, excessive profiteering in the retail chain and ensuring that specifications are changed only through a process of negotiation.
“Strong action is required to bring processors and retailers to the negotiating table. While we believe that the Government cannot be allowed to wash its hands of the beef crisis, we also think that farmers have got to stand up and fight. We understand that the Quality Assurance Scheme is important for key markets but farmers cannot continue to allow themselves to be exploited without getting a fair share from the scheme. If the factories and retailers really are committed to Quality Assurance, then they can ensure its continued success by accepting the need for fairness for farmers.”
“However, €168 million has been creamed off from farmers in twelve months by factories/ retailers at a time when UK retail prices have held firm and the sterling/euro exchange rate has been positive for Irish exports. Farmers simply cannot stand for this rip-off to continue unhindered any longer,” said ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan.
Farmers are being asked to sign up with a view to demonstrating that the ultimate sanction of a boycott of Quality Assurance is on the table. However, ICSA is emphasising that no farmer will be asked to act as an individual. The strategy is to get thousands of farmers signed up first to help build pressure on retailers and factories. Under no circumstances will the list of names be shown to factories or Bord Bia. Instead a neutral and confidential auditor will be appointed to confirm the numbers.
ICSA is urging all farmers to come together and stand up and fight. The association welcomes support from all farm organisations to help with the campaign.