THE introduction of any cuts in suckler cow payments under new CAP proposals would hit rural communities throughout Clare, a local councillor has warned.
Councillor Pat Hayes told The Clare Champion that Clare is renowned for the quality of beef produced by its suckler farmers, and stressed they play a key role in keeping rural towns and villages alive.
The councillor said it looked as if suckler farmers were effectively facing cuts in payments, which they can’t afford.
“I think it is time farming organisation and politicians woke up to the fact this will have a major impact on rural communities. Further cuts to CAP and the suckler herd will be detrimental to the future of rural communities if the current proposals are implemented.
“It looks as if suckler farmers will be hit the hardest by the CAP proposals. While environmental schemes are important, when core payments are reduced for suckler farmers, this hits rural communities.”
While farmers can avail of five or six different new environmental schemes, Councillor Hayes pointed out this presents a lot of new challenges in terms of meeting regulations and completing volumes of paperwork. He called for an increase in the area-based payment, which was previously the old headage scheme.
He said even senior Department of Agriculture officials have conceded a lot of agricultural schemes were conflicting with each other because there are different rules and regulations.
Clare Beef Plan chairman, Joe Woulfe has called for more supports to be provided to suckler farmers who are being hit by rising costs of inputs such as fuel and fertiliser.
The Clare farm leader has called for the introduction of a minimum price index for beef, which would help set a base price for farmers who are constantly experiencing price fluctuations.
“There is no benchmark at the moment to provide a minimum price for a beef farmer to have a reasonable income.”
Mr Woulfe is being paid €5,600 annually under the new REAP to leave 9.5 hectares of his land free from grazing to support flora, fauna and other biodiversity. This includes a €1,250 payment that goes towards paying the agricultural advisor, who will be hired to assist with paperwork associated with a plan to ensure Mr Woulfe meets all the terms and conditions of the scheme.
He said there needs to be a mechanism to provide a payment for carbon sequestration of land, and believes that payments for environmental schemes need to be increased to take into account any participating land can’t be used for more traditional agricultural purposes.
The Beef Plan Movement is looking for significant steps to be taken before its suckler farmers are asked to commit to another five-year suckler scheme. It believes a subsidy in the region of €300 should be paid and the new scheme deliver in terms of extra output from the suckler cow and a scheme that suckler farmers can have confidence in.
by Dan Danaher