IFA warned the Government of a day of reckoning in the European Parliament and local elections on May 24, when the Association's members protested at Cork’s City Hall last Wednesday, when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar chaired a Cabinet meeting.
Backed by about 500 angry farmers from around the country, IFA President Joe Healy said they came to the rebel county of Cork to start a farmer rebellion.
“Beef finishers are facing financial ruin,” he said. “We’re here today because beef farmers are threatened with extinction”.
The Taoiseach and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said they understood the difficulties facing beef farmers and are working with the European Commission to increase support for farmers.
But Mr Healy said the one way to drive competition in the beef market is live exports, and he accused Minister Creed of being “far from inspiring” in efforts to increase live exports.
Farming leaders spoke directly to several government ministers, including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, as they made their way into the cabinet meeting.
“While others talk about what might happen after Brexit, beef farmers are living the nightmare,” said Mr Healy.
He said official Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia data show beef finishers have taken a financial hit of €100m since last September “on the back of Brexit price cuts”.
IFA put forward a strong case for a €100m Brexit beef price aid package direct to farmers, and fought for €200 aid per suckler cow. “After being pulled screaming and dragging, the Minister came up with €40 per cow.”
The IFA President told the Taoiseach, Minister Creed, and Commissioner Hogan to tear up the EU Commission proposal to cut direct payments to Irish farmers by €97m per year. “It’s a non-runner,” said Mr Healy.
In a hard-hitting speech script, he also accused Minister Creed of “hiding in the dressing room until the match is nearly over, whenever there is a problem”,
“Minister, it is time to come out from behind the photo opportunities and fancy trade visits and do something solid to help farmers,” he said.
There was a message too for another Cork man, Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin, with Joe Healy saying his “silence has been deafening”, and it was “time to stand up for beef farmers”.
His speech message to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was “forget about An Taisce, dodgy lifestyle gurus, and Kylie Minogue”.