ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to address the complete imbalance in the board make up of bodies under the aegis of his Department such as Teagasc, Bord Bia and ICBF. “Suckler, sheep, beef and tillage farmers are frustrated that so much of the narrative seems to suit the dairy expansion model. The recent comments by Professor Gerry Boyle, which he apologised for in fairness, were symptomatic nonetheless of a wider viewpoint that suckler farmers should get out of the way and facilitate further dairy expansion. Some people believe that suckler farmers should sell their cows and get to work rearing the dairy calves,” he said.
“Is it any wonder that this viewpoint could get traction in Teagasc circles, when there are five dairy farmers on the board and no dedicated suckler, sheep or beef farmer? There is no dedicated beef or sheep farmer on the board of Bord Bia and the ICBF board is very much tilted in favour of dairying as well.”
“We have some 17,000 dairy farmers in Ireland. They are entitled to be heard. But are the other 110,000 farmers not entitled to a say?”
“This issue is hotting up, not least because of the climate change targets which will soon become clearer, and also in the context of CAP reform. CAP supports are most urgently needed by the low-income sectors yet there is a clear reluctance to do anything to upset the dairy lobby.”
“Farmers are furious that there was a suggestion that the suckler herd should be capped, when it is clear that dairy expansion is continuing unabated. ICSA is not against farmers getting into dairying or against farmers growing their dairy herds. But there also has to be some sense of balance and we need to look at the entire Irish agricultural model in a more holistic way. Every decision made on a dairy farm has obvious knock-on consequences for the beef sector, yet we had the extraordinary admission that Moorepark “never thought about the bull calves” when designing the dairy expansion model.”
“All of this is a symptom of excess dairy dominance in decision making. It exists in some farm organisations, it emerges in some Department proposals and worst of all, it is embedded in the governance structures of our most important state agricultural bodies. I am calling on Minister McConalogue to get to grips with this as soon as possible and make sure we have farm sector balance on the boards of Teagasc, Bord Bia and ICBF.”