Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has welcomed the announcement of a new scheme for suckler farmers.
In doing so, he warned that there are already signs that the minister is “repeating the mistakes that have frustrated farmers in previous schemes”.
“The new scheme would see suckler farmers receive a payment if they meet a new carbon-neutral standard.”
He said Sinn Féin has “long campaigned” for farmers to be rewarded for existing sequestration.
“Particularly during a time of increased tensions regarding prices, any method of supporting our family farmers will be welcomed.”
“That said, there are already some indications that the Department may be repeating some of the same mistakes farmers have criticised in previous schemes.”
Deliver new income
He said the first question is whether this scheme will deliver new income to farmers. Budget 2021 saw the announcement of a €45 million Covid beef scheme.
“My other concern is that the department is introducing another additional label without any reference to a dedicated suckler PGI, which I have long argued would be the best way of securing value for the primary producer.”
He said the existing grass-fed PGI application is not yet over the line. “Bord Bia appear to have only recently discovered the need to market suckler beef. It is within this context that the government are thinking of introducing carbon-neutral labelling.”
“I worry that this is an indication that the government have no intention of supporting a suckler PGI. The introduction of an entirely new label to the discussion at this stage is just tinkering around the edges and points to a department that seems to have no idea how to market suckler beef.”
Finally, he said, farmers have been telling him for some time now that the existing framework of schemes for suckler farmers is “too complex” and have advocated for a single suckler scheme.
“The Department of Agriculture should be interested farmers in fields, working with their livestock and for the environment. This scheme cannot be allowed to contribute to the already overly administrative burden that they place upon farmers.”