Suggestions surrounding the inclusion of a ‘production reduction’ measure in the €100 million beef aid fund for Irish farmers have been slammed by independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
The Roscommon-Galway representative was reacting to media reports outlining that the fund will only be distributed to farmers once specific conditions – including aims to reduce production or restructure the beef and veal sector – are met.
Speaking on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “It is worth noting that news of the fund emerged in the run up to the European and Local Elections – but details were few and far between.
“Initially the €100 million fund was billed as a support package for beef and suckler farmers who have had to endure months of poor prices and who are still faced with the prospect of Brexit – with both the minister and the commissioner stating that the money needed to go directly to farmers as soon as possible.
“But now, with the elections conveniently concluded, clauses are beginning to appear which are a kick in the teeth to suckler farmers.
“Various stories have been floating around since the fund was agreed upon in principle around a table in Brussels. Now there is a draft document circulating behind the scenes as well.
“With all of these cloak and dagger tactics, one would have to wonder what other details are being hidden from farmers? How long has the minister or officials in his department been aware of the ‘production reduction’ clause?
“Farmers could be forgiven for thinking that the minister, the department and Commissioner Hogan are collaborating to try and finish off the suckler sector in Ireland.
“Farmers need to wake up and open their eyes to what is currently going on.”
‘Where the sun doesn’t shine’
Continuing, Fitzmaurice raised concerns that bully-boy tactics from Europe could lead to the proposed ‘production reduction’ measure being forced through.
“In my opinion, if the commission isn’t willing to back down on the clause in the beef aid fund requiring Ireland to reduce production or restructure the beef and veal sector, we should tell them to stick the €50 million where the sun doesn’t shine.
“We should try and source the funds internally, rather than turn to Europe,” he said.
The independent TD called on Minister Michael Creed to reject any conditions relating to issues other than income losses suffered by beef and suckler farmers.
Concluding, Fitzmaurice said: “Just because half of this €100 million fund is set to come from Europe, we do not have to roll-over and do what we are told.
“The importance of suckler farming in Ireland cannot be underestimated. There are approximately 34,000 farms involved in suckler farming across Connacht as well as counties Donegal, Clare and Kerry.
“These farms represent families who have farmed the land for generations and who are part of the backbone of rural Ireland. Without those families, schools, local businesses and entire communities would disappear.”
Michael Fitzmaurice TD – 0861914565