New suckler programme must be accessible for all – IFA

IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden said the terms and conditions of the new Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP), which is “a vital income support” must not be prohibitive for suckler farmers.

Mr Golden met with senior Department of Agriculture officials in advance of the scheme being finalised.

“IFA has objected from the outset to the compulsory requirement for farms to be in the Bord Bia QA for the scheme,” he said.

“Quality Assurance is a market requirement and must be rewarded from the market place. It’s neither appropriate nor acceptable that suckler farmers will be forced to become Bord Bia Quality Assured in order to be eligible”.

The Livestock Chair said that the SCEP is due to open in mid-March and all eligibility criteria should only apply from that date.

“Actions or decisions taken by suckler farmers on their farms prior to this date cannot impact on payment levels or eligibility for the scheme,” he said.

“Farmers made these breeding decisions long before any CAP Strategic plans were finalised or accepted by the Commission and before any scheme terms and conditions were available. Therefore, this cannot be used as a mechanism to reduce payments or determine eligibility for farmers in the scheme”.

Mr Golden also identified the high level of ambition set out in the Strategic Plans document for the measures in the scheme and said farmers must be provided with maximum flexibility.

“The genotyping requirement must allow farmers sample calves at the time of tagging to address the issues experienced with this aspect of the BDGP and provide for a more efficient sampling process on farms,” he said.

Brendan Golden added that new entrants must be provided with a rolling reference year to allow for the herd to be built up while participating in the scheme.

“The objective in developing the terms and conditions for this scheme must be to facilitate the maximum number of farmer participants by ensuring the criteria is practical, deliverable on farm and does not involve unnecessary bureaucracy,” he concluded.