31 JULY 2019
ICSA suckler chair John Halley has said if there is to be any further talk of reducing suckler numbers it must be done in the context of properly framed policies. Reacting to the recent report from the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) which advocates a cut in suckler numbers of up to 53% Mr Halley said, “If they or the government want people to get out of suckler farming there must be policies and strategies in place to facilitate that, something we don’t have at present.”
ICSA has proposed a €200/head payment per suckler cow, per year for a period of five years as an incentive package to reduce suckler numbers. Mr Halley said “This Suckler Redirection Scheme must now be given serious consideration. At present we have an oversupply of beef in Europe which has not been caused by the suckler herd. Rather, this is down to the dramatic increase in the dairy herd and it has compounded the complete lack of profitability in the suckler sector. When you add to this the pressures of climate change mitigation, there is the possibility that alternative income sources could have an appeal. However, the need for a holistic approach to viable alternatives is apparent.”
ICSA proposes this Suckler Redirection Scheme should be available on an EU wide basis at a rate of €200 per cow, per annum, for up to five years, on a strictly voluntary basis. The scheme would be based on a reference year of 2018 and the payment would be linked to the reduction in calves registered compared to 2018.
Mr Halley stressed the importance of the voluntary nature of any such scheme. “Under no circumstances will suckler farmers be used as scapegoats to balance the books of uncontrolled dairy expansion. This strategy would also expose the hypocrisy of Food Wise 2025 expansion targets by sending out a clear signal that anything less than €200 per cow net profit is unacceptable and unsustainable. It would expose the deadly consensus that farmers should be satisfied with just breaking even.”
“It is abundantly clear that the only way to deliver farm viability is scarcity. Farm organisations must take a responsible attitude on basic economic principles that will address the profitability question above all other considerations. This will also involves pushing for innovative policies around generating an income from alternative sources. The renewable energy sector does offer promise but we are nowhere near the stage of this being a realistic option for most.”
“A rounded approach would also have to include retraining for those wishing to take part in the scheme. It should also include the option to switch to organic systems for others and significantly it should involve an acceptance that covering vast tracts of land in and around rural communities with forestry is not the optimal approach.”
There is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to this issue and careless and sweeping statements when speaking about wiping out farmers and their livelihoods is most counterproductive. It must also be noted that funding would need to come from additional sources outside of CAP. If CAP funds are redirected it means that farmers are paying for climate change.”