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‘€5m/year for a dairy calf scheme is derisory’

Des Morrison, chairperson of ICMSA’s Livestock Committee, shares his views on the Dairy-Beef CAP allocation.

The proposed allocation of €25m over five years for a dairy calf scheme announced under the CAP Strategic Plan is hugely disappointing. It represents half-hearted support for a better economics and lower emissions solution.

All initial calls for a well-structured dairy calf scheme had come from the ICSMA.

Having seemed to accept the logic and merits of the ICMSA proposal, it is incredibly disappointing that the CAP Strategic Plan the government put forward contains such an underpowered and underfunded model of this option.

All parties to the debate accepted the need for greater integration of our dairy and beef sectors.

Simple logic demanded that to proceed on the basis of the highest commercial returns and the lowest emissions. Both of those demands were met on the ICMSA dairy-calf beef model.

The arguments in its favour were irrefutable. The department had seemed to accept them when setting up a pilot scheme that was over-subscribed – as ICMSA had predicted.

Dairy Beef CAP allocation

To be honest, it’s very difficult to work out the logic or thinking behind this hopeless allocation. Compared to other plan allocations, €5m per year for a dairy calf scheme is derisory.

Given that over 50% of Irish beef production comes from the dairy herd, government should have been much more ambitious. The level of funding is in sharp contrast to the €256m allocated to the organics sector, for example.

This would have delivered on emissions at the same time as delivering better returns for beef farmers. It is a very curious and, let’s be honest, backwards step on both commercial and environmental grounds.

I observed that the EU Commission specifically mentioned dairy beef production in its pre-assessment of Ireland’s priorities under the CAP Strategic Plan, and they were right.

This was and is an obvious, logical and popular option for us to pursue. Instead, we are going to pass over this and sink hundreds of millions into schemes that are more aspiration than realisation.

It is already obvious that the government will need to review its funding level set out in the CAP Strategic Plan.

It needs to come back with a scheme that reflects the numbers that want to go with this option and the economic and environmental gains to be made.

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