Clare Beef Plan questions the transparency of department consultation
CONCERN about the transparency surrounding an online Town Hall-style meeting in relation to proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been expressed by a local farming representative.
Clare Beef Plan vice-chairman, Pat Nagle, isn’t happy with the way the two and a half-hour meeting was conducted by the Department of Agriculture as part of its efforts to involve farmers in a public consultation process.
Mr Nagle, who participated in the virtual meeting, recalled Department officials outlined a section of the CAP proposals concerning suckler operators.
“You could ask a question, but you didn’t know whether it would be answered or not. Beef Plan submitted a number of questions and I believe none of them were answered. It would have been better if the questions posed were displayed visually in some format, which would be far more transparent.”
The Liscannor farmer claimed the meeting was akin to a “tick the box exercise”, notwithstanding an appeal from Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue for farmers and farming organisations to make submissions concerning the CAP proposals.
However, Mr Nagle wonders will the Department of Agriculture pay any attention to submissions made by interested parties.
He said if the department follows the system adopted at the virtual meeting, one farming organisation got an opportunity to participate and express their views, while representatives from similar farming bodies were excluded.
This has prompted concern about the level of input that will be facilitated from farming organisations that disagree with some of the latest CAP proposals.
If any suckler farmer availed of the BEAM scheme that involved a 5% cut in their herd numbers, Mr Nagle warned this will now operate as their new quota.
“Why should a quota be placed on suckler numbers when the quota system was removed from dairying? Considering how environmentally friendly suckler farming is, particularly in the West of Ireland, why would you restrict it even more?
“If a farmer is forced to reduce his suckler herd for health or other reasons for a period of time, it looks as this number will be his new reference number, which would be downright unfair. It looks like this is an economic rather than an environmental issue.
If current CAP proposals are introduced, he warned that farmers will be expected to produce food cheaply and still go through new hoops, with the imposition of penalties in the event of an unintended mistake.
Beef Plan chairman, Eamon Corley claimed out of the 350 participants, six were “handpicked” to speak on questions they tabled, while the department “chose to ignore any of the difficult questions that were asked”.
Mr Corley said Beef Plan had voiced questions about the validation process for beef star ratings, which were ignored and wondered why were suckler farmers singled out for a cap in the new suckler scheme, while schemes relating to other sectors didn’t have any such cap.
The question was also asked why were Beef Plan not included in the CAP Consultation Committee. “Beef Plan have 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.
Responding to Clare Champion queries, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture outlined a period of public consultation on the proposed draft interventions for Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 is currently being undertaken and the comments provided will be considered as part of this process.
Farmers have until Friday, September 3 to make submissions under the consultation process. Minister McConalogue said he is committed to ensuring that all farmers have an opportunity to have their voices heard.
by Dan Danaher