Eamon Corley, Beef Plan chairman, shares his view on the DAFM’s town hall meetings.
Having taken part in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s final online town hall meeting, I, unfortunately, find it necessary to highlight my concerns.
To me, it seemed that it was a managed meeting that was designed to tick boxes to give the impression that farmers were consulted rather than actually genuinely consulting farmers.
Out of the 350 that participated, approximately six participants were allowed to speak.
While the department facilitator went to great lengths stating that he wanted farmers to get involved in the consultative process, farmers will judge him by his actions not by his words.
Participants were encouraged to type in questions on the night but none of the other participants could see these questions.
DAFM’s town hall meetings: Speakers handpicked
Having talked to some of my Beef Plan colleagues that were on the call, the department chose to ignore any of the difficult questions that were asked.
Let’s call a spade a spade. It was a managed meeting that lasted two-and-a-half hours where the department speakers outlined what they were going to do.
During the meeting, it appears that six people were handpicked to speak on the questions they asked.
All six people were afforded the opportunity to pose their questions. They spent a large amount of their time heaping praise on the department rather than asking the hard questions that needed to be asked.
There were statements made by Department officials that were not permitted to be challenged on the night.
To give you an example, it was stated that the benefits delivered by the star ratings were already established at €120 per head.
Up to this point, the only validation of this that has taken place has been by ICBF or Teagasc.
Beef Plan had questions concerning the validation process, but they were to, all intents and purposes, ignored.
We also asked why suckler farmers were singled out for a cap in the new suckler scheme, while schemes relating to other sectors did not have any such cap. While this question was acknowledged, it was not answered.
Beef Plan excluded from CAP Consultation Committee
Beef Plan also asked why we were not included in the CAP Consultation Committee.
This question was also ignored. Beef Plan has put proposals and submissions into the department as regards CAP and the new suckler scheme.
It remains to be seen if the department chooses to work with suckler and beef farmers and take their views on board.
Gone are the days when many suckler and beef farmers trust the IFA to represent their views.
The sooner the department accepts this fact, the better. Farmers will judge the department by their actions, not their words.
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